State government, for the first time since 1990, when armed insurgency erupted in the state, opened beautiful huts, on the foothills of Zabarwan mountain range facing the Dal Lake at the Chasmashahi, for high-end tourists as almost all top bureaucrats, who had occupied the huts, were given alternative accommodation at different places in Srinagar, a senior official said.
Each year the Estates Department would pay around Rs 6 crore to Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Corporation for the prized huts to accommodate the officials at the Chasmashahi. A senior official said this year when Darbar moved to Srinagar from Jammu, the Estates Department hired around 40 residential houses for the officials after removing them from the Chasmashahi.
He said out of 48 huts, 34 have been vacated by the top officials and they have moved to private residential houses hired for them. “This is social intervention to connect people and our top bureaucracy, and the bureaucracy has liked the idea to live like common people. They are ordinary Kashmiris for their neighbours”, J-K government spokesman, Naeem Akhtar, said.
Akhtar, who is also Minister for Education, said, “the move constitutes a step toward reconciliation that everyone aims in Kashmir.” Since 1990, around 48 huts at Chasmashahi were being allocated as official residences to the senior level IAS and IPS officers. Though in past several occasions proposals were moved that the officers be relocated, the officers would put their foot down.
However, the officials say, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is also Minister for Tourism and Estates Departments, before closure of Durbar move this year, decided against renting out hutments to the Estates department and directed alternative arrangements should be made for the officials. All the top officials relented this time, said a senior tourism department official.
However, around eight IAS officers, three IPS and two members of statutory bodies continue to stay in the posh huts. The officials say they are looking for the accommodation for them. “Once we get private houses for them, they will be also shifted from the hutments.” State government had informed the state legislature before 1990 the huts were being used for promotion of tourism. However, after the eruption of the militancy and due to sharp decline in the arrival of tourists to valley, the huts remained vacant.
Subsequently, the government decided to utilize the huts at Chasmashahi to accommodate senior officers of the government, who move with the Durbar to the valley, during the summer months. Darbar-move in Jammu and Kashmir is 138 year old tradition started by Dogra rajas. But the practice continued after in 1947. In 80s when Dr Farooq Abdullah tried to abandon the practice, he had to face stiff resistance from Jammu lawyers. Finally he gave up the idea.
More than 40 offices and their sub-departments move in full after functioning for six winter months in Jammu while 45 departments carry 33 per cent of their staff strength with Darbar.