Secretariat , seat of governance, in J&K is closed. It is to open on November 7, 2016 at Jammu , winter capital, having closed at Srinagar, summer capital, on 28th October. With Kashmir valley facing unrest for last 110 days and schools set on fire by anti establishment, can the seat of governance avail leave to shift to another location following ritual, the king started 144 years ago for governance convenience owing to weather inclemency? Wonder! won’t this burden of poor state be ever unburdened?
J&k state capital alternates between two populous cities of Srinagar & Jammu. Closing in Jammu in end April, secretariat-the nerve centre of activity & other move offices open in Srinagar in May first week with spring welcoming. Late October with winter setting in, it closes in Srinagar to be welcomed by Jammu pleasant weather in early November.
Maharaja Ranbir Singh, then state ruler, started it in 1872. Harsh winter of Kashmir valley with only available cart road communication blocked, capped with thick white cover, for months favoured shift to warmerJammu. Heat, sweat & malaria threat confronting favoured ‘darbar’ move from Jammu to Srinagar in summer. It’s amazing a practice of 19th century, then a necessity with only around 100 strength shifting, is continuing. Move employees strength bloated to thousands (media reports a lakh) still shift despite winter having shed its harshness; far superior road and air connectivity yearlong available; video conferencing only a click away, burdening poor state with 100 crores expenditure. This is besides unaffordable governance disruption biannually when growing life challenges demand uninterrupted closer attention.
This shift entails a cavalcade of over 200 vehicles moving under strong security cover backed by special medical facilities enroute. Media reports that along secretariat around 49 offices move in full while 52 offices move in camp carrying along 33% of its staff. While the heads of deptt. located in summer capital Srinagar have office timings of 10am to 5pm, their subordinate offices in Jammu perforce have to be functional beyond Jammu summer working hours of 8am to 2pm to ensure superior officers connectivity. Each employee is paid Rs 15000/- as move allowance besides colossal arrangements for their housing in hotels, private hired buildings and accommodation of tourism department.
Question stares into eyes, with vast infrastructure development and valley weather harshness only a story of the past, should this extravaganza continue when funds are scarce and governance cries for improvement? We unceremoniously close governance seat-secretariat- biannually for 9 days, with two Sundays included, to open it ceremoniously at another location. It’s not just that. Files packaging in trunks, their transportation and unpackaging latter with employees struggling to settle down at changed location, after having availed
move leave, takes its own heavy toll on
The ‘darbar move’ also called biannual exodus is waste of public money and precious governance period. Omar Abdullah as CM in 2012 had commented; “Do I think the ‘darbar move’ is a waste of money? Yes I do. Is there an alternative? I havn’t seen a viable alternative suggested.” Farooq Abdullah in 1987 as Chief Minister ordered secretariat to be permanently located at Srinagar. It was a politically motivated decision. It hit hard Jammu people interest. As deserved, it was vehemently opposed & rolled back in a month’s time. PDP senior cabinet minister in present coalition govt. said “the amount spent on ‘darbar move’ is very small in proportion of what is spent on running the govt and that social interaction it provides cannot be measured in money”. Political experts believe that two regions of Kashmir and Jammu are greatly diverse and people from neither region would want the capital to be permanently with the other. It is also opined that no govt can stop this practice for sake of maintaining the integrity of state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The darbar move casts heavy financial and administrative burden on poor J&k state. It’s incapable of paying its employees salary; it sustains on doles from central govt; development wise state is far behind not for funds but for lack of intent and fund diversion. Negating its long historical roots, this burden considered necessary evil needs to be cast off. Politicians for personal limited interests failed to scrap off this costly harmful ritual.
Norman Vincent Peale said, “Every problem has in it seeds of its solution. Where there are no problems there would be no seeds.” Why don’t we see the seeds of solution in it? When diversity of two regions keeps its resolution away, let secretariat be located centrally between Jammu & Srinagar at a scenic place with weather welcoming throughout and location proving a boon for since neglected backward districts of Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar. That location Batote with tremendous scope for tourism development around, many already in pipe line, would bring up Shimla type permanent state capital. Accessed by four lane Jammu Srinagar highway, backed by slew of technological feats as Chenaini Nashri tunnel shortening distance by 31 kms, Banihal Qazigund rail tunnel curtailing road journey of 35 kms to 17.5 kms by train, and many other that would come over the period, it will leave none grudging for regional bias. Rather as a central bridge free of regional tag, so located secretariat shall be pumping life as central heart all around; be working yearlong uninterrupted free from cancerous turned Kashmir centric issues.
When we concede ‘Darbar Move’ is a burden worth unburdening, let’s rise above our regional, political interests & think dispassionately for a solution. We shall have one, provided we want one. For those self conceited viewing it as loss & resenting this change, wisdom of Marcus Aurelius: “Loss is nothing else but change and change is Nature’s delight” shall leave them
pondering, I am sure.
The author is Former Inspector General of Police.