Chief minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday questioned the wisdom of continuing with the 140 year old tradition of the Dogra monarchy of shifting capitals in the state, saying “it is wastage of money and an escapist move”.
“Do I think the 'Durbar move' (shifting of capital) is a waste of money? Yes I do. Is there an alternative? I haven't seen a viable alternative suggested,” said Omar.
The chief minister’s serious statement came out not during a public rally or a party meeting but on the micro-blogging site Twitter, which is followed by 1.25 lakh followers.
Every year the state secretariat with 7,000 employees move to Srinagar in summer and to Jammu in winters. Thousands are files are ferried in buses and tracks on the 300-km long treacherous route of Srinagar and Jammu. So these employees, who hail from the two regions of the state, gets a chance to spend six months in different culture and terrain. The bonding costs the state a whooping Rs 40 crore. It was Dogra monarch Maharaja Gulab Singh who started the process in 1872 to escape harsh winter in Srinagar and severe summer in Jammu.
“I agree. We run away when people need us most and (they) face the most difficulty. The darbar move is escapist," wrote the chief minister.
The state government's 'move offices' will close in Jammu on April 28 and reopen here on May 7.
“Earlier, during the monarchy, it was the King and his court, which would shift capitals in the state. Now, it’s chief minister who moves with civil secretariat, Raj Bhawan and other important offices,” said Zafar Ahmad, a history scholar and researcher. More than 600 bureaucrats will shift their offices and files to new address in Srinagar’s Civil Secretariat soon.
The decades old system of government functioning has, however, proved boon for the relation between Kashmir and Jammu as wedge grows between the two provinces over the past three years. The Amarnath land row in 2008 stoked passions in both the regions, dividing the state on communal lines.