Decades of paper records being victim to flooding

LAHORE/ KARACHI: The biblical monsoon floods took everything in their wake including government offices, which has now triggered a panic amongst public officials that the reliance on paper records might be coming to bite them back.

Since they are the sub-divisional headquarters of a district, tehsils are the most important town of every district; and all tehsil level government offices, including those that deal with revenue and land affairs, are located at the tehsil headquarters of each district.

Presently, numerous tehsils headquarters, in Sindh and South Punjab, are either fully or partially submerged, which has put at risk the countless revenue and land records of the populace of entire districts. “Some of the official records could have been damaged in the flood, however, we do not know the exact details yet as our tehsil headquarter is still under water,” said Sono Khan Chandio, who is the Assistant Commissioner of Khairpur Nathan Shah.

He further informed that currently all the tehsil level staff was working from the district headquarters located in Dadu City. Similarly, sources privy to the matter informed The Daily Information Times, that in the flood devastated Rajanpur and DG Khan districts of Punjab, as a stopgap arrangement piles of documents of police stations, hospitals, and courts were put on top of closets and other higher places to avoid contact with the water. However, the sources conceded that due to the intensity of the flood, the makeshift measures had failed and it was now feared that files and land records had been severely damaged.

Furthermore, officials informed that there were also concerns of revenue records being tampered or manipulated by patwaris under the guise of flood damage in several patwar khanas of the district. While there have been no such reports of fraud from Sindh yet, Syed Zahid Hussain Shah, a mukhtiarkar, who has the powers of an Assistant Collector by law, of Rohri tehsil, said, “roughly 30% of our tehsil’s records have still not been computerised.”

When asked if there was a timeline of when they would be computerised, Shah replied that it was in process. As per official numbers by the Board of Revenue, Sindh, the total land revenue record of the province consists of 5,979 dehs out of which the records of 5,680 have been computerised. However, the numbers also reveal that out of the total records computerised, records for 3,600 dehs were given to district administration for verification but only 1,200 have been verified so far. It is pertinent to mention that this computerisation process started back in October of 2010.

In Punjab, according to official sources, computerisation of revenue records has been completed in 100 out of 145 tehsils. However, officials in the flood devastated districts, who spoke to The Daily Information Times under the condition of anonymity, conceded that it was their mistake for not having taken the computerisation of records seriously and said that digital records were a long way off.

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