LAHORE: The Punjab government is all set to initiate dialogue and consultation with different stakeholders onboard to strengthen and modernise the centuries-old numberdari (village headman) system.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Central Punjab President Ejaz Ahmad Chaudhry has proposed the government to hold a convention of numberdars from across Punjab to gather their input to further enhance the efficiency and make this traditional system in line with modern day needs.
“The government should enforce numberdari system in rural areas till the introduction of any other system in the province,” he said, adding that this legacy system remained successful for many decades and it would have no additional burden on the public kitty as the position of a numberdar was voluntary.
Speaking to media persons on Saturday, Chaudhry highlighted that most laws of 1937-38 were still enforced in the province, but will consultation among stakeholders the efficiency of the numberdari system could be enhanced. The government can also make this system strengthen by introducing new legislation, he suggested.
He also underlined that the government should ensure transparency in the nomination of numberdars as the chief minister has proposed appointment of 45,000 numberdars in rural areas across Punjab.
The PTI leader said his party has also initiated the process to introduce new local governments system in Punjab. The system has already tested and proved successful in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Under this new local government system elections will be held on non-party basis and a large number of common citizens will participate in the lowest tier of the government.
The system will empower local leaders to solve their problems at the local level. This system is in line with Article 140 of the Constitution of Pakistan, which speaks about the empowerment of the people.
He underscored that it was the priority of the PTI government to solve public problems by curbing corruption that has penetrated in the roots of the entire system. The proposed numberdari system will help the government to improve its revenue collection. It will create a better liaison between the provincial government and the rural population. These numberdars will also be responsible to report local government about encroachments to protect state land from illegal occupants. They will help the government to keep a vigilant eye over leakage of revenues and outbreak of any epidemic in their respective areas.
It would be their responsibility to inform the competent authority about epidemics or outbreak of any disease in their villages.
The government believes that this time-tested system of numberdari can play a vital role in improving revenue collection and governance in rural settings. Initially, the government has decided to award them some 14 government’s function on behalf of different government departments in their respective jurisdictions.
Earlier, the Pakistan Muslim League’s (PML-N) former minister for revenue Gul Hameed Khan Rokhri had attempted to reactivate the system for similar objectives in 2006. He also announced to give incentives to numberdars for making this centuries-old system more effective and efficient. He indicated that the government would temporarily award 12.5 acres of state land to each numberdar on lease for cultivation in colony districts which would be revoked after his death or in case of his removal from the post and would be given to the new incumbent.
The numberdari system in Pakistan is based on the pre-partition Indian land revenue system. After 1947, both nations have made changes to the land revenue acts, leading to some differences in the practice and implementation, though the basic concept remains the same.
The title numberdar is used in the Indian subcontinent which applies to influential families of zamindar of the village revenue estate. It is hereditary status and has wide-ranging governmental powers, mainly revenue collection and a share in it, the collaboration with the police for maintaining law and order in the village. Though in rural areas some influential still enjoy privileges by using this title but for practical purposes, the numberdari system has become defunct over a period of time.
In the Punjab Land Revenue Act, 1967, has defined the role and responsibilities of numberdar or headman in revenue collection. The compound word numberdar is composed of the English word number (such as a certain number or percentage of the land revenue) and dar from the Persian loan word into Bengali, Hindi, Urdu and Punjabi languages, meaning the bearer, possessor, holder, keeper or owner), thus in this context, it means the one who holds a certain percentage of the land revenue. The alternate term lambardar is a matter of dialect which refer to the same title.