Covid-19 halts J&K’s annual ‘Darbar Move’ for the first time in 144 years

The union territory’s government has accorded sanction for the formal opening of offices for the summer session in Srinagar from May 4 following their move to Jammu for the winter. However, only employees from Kashmir will make the move once offices close in Jammu later this month.
Employees of the Kashmir Division affected by the move and who now need to travel to Srinagar for the “Darbar Move” during April 25-26 will be provided transport by the Jammu and Kashmir Road Transport Corporation.(Photo by Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times)
Employees of the Kashmir Division affected by the move and who now need to travel to Srinagar for the “Darbar Move” during April 25-26 will be provided transport by the Jammu and Kashmir Road Transport Corporation.(Photo by Parveen Kumar/Hindustan Times)
Updated on Apr 11, 2020 07:09 PM IST
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Hindustan times, Srinagar | ByMir Ehsan

The annual “Darbar Move” in Jammu and Kashmir – the shifting of the administrative machinery from Jammu to Srinagar in the spring that has a history of 144 years – won’t be fully completed this year due to concerns related to the Covid-19 outbreak.

The union territory’s government has accorded sanction for the formal opening of offices for the summer session in Srinagar from May 4 following their move to Jammu for the winter. However, only employees from Kashmir will make the move once offices close in Jammu later this month.

According to the order issued by the general administration department (GAD), the Civil Secretariat in Jammu will remain functional in view of the extraordinary circumstances arising from the pandemic. Besides, employees who had moved to Jammu will work on an “as is where is” basis – Kashmir-based staff will work from Srinagar and Jammu-based staff will work from there.

“Further, Move offices outside the Civil Secretariat shall also continue to remain functional at Jammu/Srinagar, as per the aforementioned mechanism. Administrative Secretaries shall make necessary arrangements to ensure the functionality in their respective departments, both at Srinagar and Jammu,” the order said, adding similar arrangements will be put in place by heads of Departments affected by the “Darbar Move”.

The Civil Secretariat Treasury and the J&K Bank’s moving branch at the Civil Secretariat will function at both Jammu and Srinagar. The finance department will put in place a suitable mechanism for this purpose.

Employees of the Kashmir Division affected by the move and who now need to travel to Srinagar for the “Darbar Move” during April 25-26 will be provided transport by the Jammu and Kashmir Road Transport Corporation. They will also be issued passes for movement on the national highway.

The administration intends to review these arrangements after assessing the extent and spread of Covid-19 after June 15, the order said.

However, the order has raised many eyebrows, with former chief minister Omar Abdullah questioning the decision in a series of tweets. “If it is safe for Kashmiri employees to move to Srinagar why not Jammuites?” he said.

He also tweeted: “If the files remain in Jammu what work will the Kashmiri employees do in the Srinagar secretariat? If the files move to Srinagar what work will be done in Jammu?”

Describing the order as mindless, he tweeted, “This order regarding the bi-annual ‘durbar move’ is just mindless rubbish at worst & needless tokenism at best. So the offices can’t shift to Srinagar because of #Covid_19, I get that. What I don’t get is what Srinagar secretariat will do without files or senior officers?”

He noted most Kashmir-based employees are currently in Jammu as the secretariat was functioning in that city during winter. “If Srinagar Secretariat has no employees, no officers & no files what is it being opened for?” he asked.

Abdullah contended the order would only lead to confusion and demanded its withdrawal. He also said the “Darbar Move” should be put off till the threat posed by Covid-19 has passed. “This order of two ‘functioning secretariats’ will just create confusion because no one will know which secretariat to approach to get their work done,” he tweeted.

He also questioned why non-J&K employees and officers led by the lieutenant governor don’t move to the Kashmir Valley as scheduled.

The annual “Darbar Move” was started by the erstwhile Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Ranbir Singh, in 1972. However, 33 years ago, when former chief minister Farooq Abdullah tried to end the annual shifting, protests by a cross-section of society in Jammu forced him to change his mind.

After the revocation of Article 370 of the Constitution last August, there is a strong feeling in the Kashmir Valley that efforts are being made to disempower the local people.

The Jammu and Kashmir high court on Saturday sought information about the implications of the Darbar Move amid the pandemic after two Kashmir-based lawyers questioned the “advisability” of the annual exercise.

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Wednesday, May 18, 2022