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Ancient patwari system keeps order in rural Uttarakhand
By Nawani Royal

Believe it or not, but an old system of keeping a vigil on law and order and collecting revenue from the public through a "Patwari" or, the local revenue officer, still prevails and keeps order in the rural areas of Uttarakhand!

Though it is the State police, which is now responsible for law and order in the rural areas of Uttarakhand, hi-tech methods of law enforcement are a distant dream.

Traditionally, local Patwaris are responsible for resolving disputes and crimes in villages, not the police.

It is said that the Patwari system has been in existence since 1861 because of the State's wide geographical dimensions and the remoteness of the villages.

With the police, counselling centres and support schemes mostly located in towns and the three major cities of Uttranchal, the access to these facilities is often difficult for rural folk.

According to the patwaris, the public prefers the patwari system to the police system.

"This system is functioning here since 1861. The reputation of local revenue officers is far better than the regular police. About 75 per cent of public residing in rural areas prefers patwari. Yes, we do agree that we have a shortage of basic infrastructure and the force is not adequate. In the name of arms and ammunition, we just have a stick as compared to the regular police," said Ganga Prasad Patewal, the Patwari of New Tehri, Garhwal.

The system is also considered 'beneficial' as the Patwari understands the village and is a part of its inherent culture. It also helps in reducing the police force and any stranger's interference by strangers. Villages can settle their own issues. The revenue system covers 65 percent of the areas.

Though, the patwari system is perceived as a good system to solve local disputes, the regular police think otherwise.

"We do regular patrolling, we make proper history sheets, we maintain records of criminals and do regular surveillance. We do a lot of preventive action and patwaris do not follow any such organised system. They cannot control criminal activities. They can only perform duties like undertaking basic investigation of an incident," said G S Martolia, the Superintendent of Police in Tehri, Garhwal.

"Regular Police is better than the revenue officers or Patwaris who only register cases," said R.V. Sharma, the Station House Officer (SHO) of Tehri.

Rural residents feel both systems are needed.

"Patwaris manage disputes and matters of interior areas and maintain peace in the region. The regular police handle criminal offence of big scale. Both are doing a good job," said Virender Singh, a resident.

But lack of coordination between the two systems of controlling untoward incidents usually leads to increase in criminal activities.

Interestingly, when it comes to serious crimes, residents prefer the police to the local Patwari

Credits : Ashish Goel ANI