An invaluable book for Revenue Deptt

K. B Jandial
Walter Lawrence was the Settlement Commissioner of Kashmir whose assigned work took him to every nook and corner of the Valley that resulted in Kashmir’s best book- ‘The Valley of Kashmir’, published in 1895 when the settlement operation was finished. He got opportunities to understand the history, geography, economy, flora and fauna and culture of the people. The Revenue Department has always been the backbone of administration: oldest and most important instrument of governance.
Well, not exactly following Lawrence’s footsteps, but a veteran Revenue Officer and a luminary of Revenue matters, Virender Kumar Gupta, agreed to take up the indomitable challenge of writing a book on some of the Revenue icons, their experiences, views and then prevailing practices. The pain felt by veterans on the “fast deteriorating Revenue Dept.”, and negative talk on it, stirred him to bring out a book on hidden positive aspects, hoping that it might check its slide. The stimulated conscience of a group of ‘concerned veterans’ who supported this initiative, finally led to the treasure-trove, “Land Revenue Administration in Jammu and Kashmir – Reflection of Some Iconic Revenue Officers”. This is Virender’s third book, the other two are “The Manual of Instructions” & “The J&K Tenancy Act”.
The author and ‘concerned veterans’, zeroed in on twenty iconic revenue veterans: divided into two groups- six legendry figures in ‘The Bouquet’ & 14 others in ‘The Trend Setters’. S/Shri Ram Chandra Dobey, Ch. Bharat Bhushan, SAS Qadri, SA Qayum, Sat Lal Koul & Raj Kumar Gupta are clubbed in the Bouquet. The other fourteen “Trend Setters” are S/Shri Bashir Ahmad Runyal, Bashir Ahmad Khwaja, Bishan Dass Sharma. Dalip Singh, Dwarika Nath Trisal, Faquir Singh, Ghulam Ahmad Peer, Ghulam Qadir Mughal, Mumtaz Afzal, Rajinder Singh Parihar, Sudarshan Sharma & Ved Parkash Gupta.
Each one of them besides the author has left behind a legacy which the Revenue department and the society should honour and carry it forward. Their hard work, commitment, competence and compassion of these Icons to deliver justice to the common man and upholding the majesty of the revenue law, rules & regulations is the role model for the new entrants. Going by experiences of these veterans, some of them rose to the top positions of State’s administration, they are the trailblazers. Bureaucrats’ initial stint in Revenue Dept is essential as they are trained in the basic revenue administration involving implementation of revenue laws, rules and regulations by a well-knit hierarchy from Village Chowkidar to the Revenue Minister.
Equally informative is the foreword penned by the celebrated bureaucrat, Shri C. Phunsog IAS (Retd) former Chief Secretary J&K who dwelt with evolution of District Administration and acquisition of “Diwanee” rights from British rule. The Foreword made the book richer in information and invaluable.
Some functionaries got the surnames of ‘Patwari’ and ‘Kanungo’ which are carried forward by their descendants. The author mentioned some them like Nityanand Kanungo, former minister, Arjun Kanungo – singer, composer & actor, Dr. H.N. Patwari retired Dy. Director, ISM, J&K & Kalpana Patwari, Bihu singer of Assam.
The Book revealed bold decisions of some courageous officers. During the reign of Maharaja Pratap Singh, the Governor of Jammu, Ram Chander Dobey who hailed from a small village Rehi in Hiranagar tehsil, ordered return of the Kafila of the Maharani from Ramban. The Maharani to beat Jammu’s summer all of sudden decided to move to Srinagar but had to return back because of Governor’s order. It was natural for the Maharani to get mad at this humiliation and that angered the Maharaja too. Dobey was summoned. He sensed the fallout of his decision and put his resignation letter in his pocket while appearing before His Highness. Confident of his decision, he explained that in the absence of the prescribed protocol, security and advance arrangements, Maharani’s entourage should not have left Jammu. And handed over his resignation. Maharaja Pratap Singh found the decision correct. On Revenue side, Dobey compiled “Brief History of Revenue Administration in J&K”.
Work alcoholic Choudhary Bharat Bhushan, authority on revenue and governance, would rarely adjourn hearing of revenue cases and would invariably dictate judgments immediately at the conclusion of arguments. True to his commitment, he once attested132 mutations in a day during his visit to a remote village of Ramban. While he never hesitated in reprimanding the incompetent revenue officers, he would stand by the honest and performers. One such instance was recorded in the book. the Revenue Minister transferred Tehsildar Kandhara Singh from Samba to Divisional Commissioner’s Office but he as FC Revenue directed Divisional Commissioner to send him to Samba. The Minister had to withdraw the transfer order in face of Ch sahib resistance.
SAS Qadri learnt the revenue laws & procedures in a hard way. An interesting story is linked with his early attachment with a Patwari of Srinagar for training. When Qadri went to the Patwar Khana, he saw the Patwari surrounded by many persons who responded to Qadri’s “third’ salaam. On being introduced as Probationer, Patwari directed him to clean the ‘chillum’ of his hookah which he did faithfully. Sharing this experience much later, Qadri said that Patwari had no intention to humiliate him. He wanted to ‘kill’ his ego which is a prerequisite for any learning.
S A Qayum lived a hard life & observing austerity but never shed his optimism. His father was Persian teacher besides Mirwaiz of Ladakh, Qayum had his schooling at Leh and picked up jobs of teacher, Patwari and Girdawar. Joint visit of Pt Nehru & Sheikh Abdullah to Ladakh proved lucky for him. When the people complained to them about two unemployed youth, both were appointed. Qayum was appointed Naib Tehsildar. He had served as Revenue Officer in all the three regions and earned people’s admiration. He was a thorough professional and professed honesty with qualities of team spirit and positive attitude which he considered the essential qualities of a public servant.
Sat Lal Koul is yet another trailblazer who too was popular among the people in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh by dint of his hard work and dispensing justice. His father too was a Patwari who invariably took him along and taught him work of Patwari besides Urdu. He too was appointed as Naib Tehsildar at Leh. His quest for judicial knowledge to deal with judicial matters as a Magistrate, took him to the residence of Sub-Judge, Udhampur. His mantra was- adopt “Hikmat- amli and shed Hakimana raveya”.
Raj Kumar Gupta too started his career as Naib Tehsildar and rose to be the Revenue Secretary. He never reconciled to the revenue ‘paramparra’ of sending gifts to revenue officers, especially after harvesting of Kharif. This ‘unfair’ practice continued to bother him even though he was told that even the monarchs of J&K used to give gifts to the revenue officers. The author has quoted from E N Mangat Rai’s book – “Commitment My Style” that Punjab’s Premier, Sikandar Hayat Khan always paid customary gifts to the Patwaris of the area where he owned land. It was sought to be justified on the ground of Patwari’s meagre salary. He was sore over the Revenue Department going bad to worse, pointing out that lack of training of new entrants and interest in updating revenue records are responsible for it.
Apart from the invaluable experiences of the 14 Trend Setters, the book also contained an interesting chapter of “Tales and Anecdotes” of six celebrated revenue officers including Pradeep Gupta, Harbans Lal & Ved Parkash Gupta.
The author has explained the meaning and contours of Land Settlement i.e., agreement between tillers & the State, based on the produce which was the land revenue. This chapter has an interesting account of reforms initiated in the system by Raja Todar Mal. The Patta system that provided a written document to the peasant recording State’s share, was initiated during the rule of Sher Shah Suri. The system was not without defects which used to lead to peasant uprisings. The interesting background of the famous Punjab’s legendary folklore too is based on one of such uprisings, Dullah Bhatti Wala. The conditions of the peasantry during Dogra Rule have also found a place in this chapter.
By all standard, the book is invaluable for revenue department, the fresh entrants and even the general public. Paperback book is published by the Anand Publications priced at Rs 1200/-