The Greater Mohali Area Development Authority (GMADA) takes the services of untrained and illegitimate "patwaris" in its land-acquisition process for mega projects.
These people were appointed in clear violation of the Punjab Land Manual Rules, based on fake certificates issued by unauthorised training institutes. When the credentials and conduct were questioned before the Punjab vigilance bureau in a complaint, GMADA annulled their contracts fast but, of late, has retaining three of them.
Of at least 15 illegal patwaris hired in the past three years, eight were shunted out in February when the VB sought GMADA's reply on a complaint lodged against this task force engaged in the land acquisition process, which included assessing the financial compensation to be given to farmers.
On February June 21, 2013, GMADA wrote to the bureau that it had terminated their contracts the same day. Satisfied, the VB disposed of the complaint. The so-called patwaris fleeced people whose land GMADA acquired for mega projects, the complaint suggested. "They do the work of the 'halqa' patwari and the 'halqa' kanugo (actual revenue department officials in the area)," the complainant added.
Many of these people appointed by the office of the land acquisition collector (LAC) in GMADA had even demanded identity cards to work in the field as patwari. GMADA additional chief administrator Manjit Singh Brar confirmed that the authority had discontinued their services. "Yes, the patwaris need formal training at Patwar School, and without it, no one can go into the field for any land-acquisition work," he said.
Brar, however, said he would check with the LAC if anyone worked as patwari without the required credentials. The three retained "patwaris" are the employees of a private agency to which GMADA has outsourced the entire land-acquisition exercise.
The agency, Tila Zenders, hired eight more "patwaris" as its employees, even with the majority not holding any valid document to qualify for the position. The senior official who made the appointments in the past 3 years was a state land acquisition collector (LAC), who is no less than a Punjab Civil Services (PCS) officer. The two LACs in the period of these appointments were the current incumbent, Pushpinder Singh Kaile, and his predecessor, Hargunjit Kaur.
The people shown as patwaris appointed in the LAC office of GMADA included Nishan Singh, Mandeep Singh Sandeep Singh, Bikramjit Sharma, Lakhvir Chand Sharma, Sandeep Kumar, Mandeep Kumar, Baljit Singh, Baldeep Singh, Sushil Kumar, Amrinder Singh, Sukhdev Singh, Gurvinder Singh, Jasvir Singh, and Parminder Singh, as given in the details secured under the Right to Information (RTI) Act (HT holds copy of the documents).
All these people appointed since January 2009 onwards had submitted "patwari-training certificates" issued by MP Computer Patwar Training Centre or Miri Piri Educational Society. The appointees retained as patwaris in the LAC task force are Vikramjit Sharma, Parminder Singh, and Kulbir Singh, and none of them have any formal training in the job.
The LAC office has tried to overcome a legal tangle to continue with them. They were brought on the team as members of Tila Zenders company to which GMADA has outsourced the land-revenue tasks, including the demarcation of the land being acquired on behalf of the state government.
Onus put on LAC
Punjab financial commissioner revenue (FCR) NS Kang, when contacted, said the land-acquisition process was at the disposal of the LAC attached to GMADA. "Whatever happens should be within the rules," he said, throwing the onus on the LAC if any unauthorised patwari had been hired for the land-acquisition work.
(Tomorrow: land acquisition outsourced?)
WHO IS PATWARI?
A patwari is a government functionary in the state revenue collection system, whose job includes visiting agricultural land and maintaining record of ownership and tilling (girdawaria).
How is patwari appointed
Under the Punjab Revenue Patwaris Class-3 Service Rules of the Punjab Land Manual: "No patwari candidate shall be eligible for appointment to the service unless he or she qualifies the patwar examination after attending Patwar School at the directorate of land records, Jalandhar, for a minimum one year."
The state government officially appoints a patwari after the mandatory 1-year training at the Jalandhar-based Patwar Training School, which is part and parcel of the Directorate of Punjab Land Records on the Kapurthala Road in Jalandhar.
The deputy commissioner concerned is the sole appointing authority for patwari after the candidate has completed mandatory training at Patwar School.