By: Afaq Bhat
Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Government led by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has “bitten the bullet” by ending the 149-year old Durbar Move practice in the newly carved out Union Territory.
The decision has evoked sharp reactions in the Jammu region as the businessmen are stating that Kashmiris not visiting the winter capital will hit their businesses. In Kashmir there has been no such reaction.
An observer while talking to Precious Kashmir said, “Jammu will obviously feel the pinch as it used to be home for Kashmiris in winter. Employees who used to take their families and kith and kin along used to stay there for 6-months and Jammu was their second home.”
He said that in 1988 the then chief minister of J&K Dr Farooq Abdullah had ordered that the Durbar Move practice be scrapped but it had led to strong protests in Jammu, following which the Dr Abdullah led regime rescinded the order.
“The debate over calling off the Durbar Move has been going on for the past two years, since the day J&K was turned into a union territory. There could have been pulls and pressures but it seems that the present regime has taken a final call over the issue,” the observer added.
It may be recalled that in May last year the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had observed that there was no “legal justification or Constitutional basis” for the Darbar Move, in which the capital of the region was relocated twice a year — from Srinagar to Jammu during winter months and vice-versa in the summers.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajnesh Oswal, had said that the Durbar Move resulted in “wastage of tremendous amount of time, efforts and energy on inefficient and unnecessary activity (say, packing of records)”.
Cutting through any justification for the move, the court had asserted that while the Union Territory is not being able to provide even basic essentials to its people, “valuable resources of the State — financial and physical — cannot be diverted to completely non-essential usage”.
It, however, did not issue any direction to the authorities, taking note of the limitations on its jurisdiction.
The practice involved shifting of nearly 151 government departments and over 10,000 personnel, along with thousands of official documents and equipment loaded in over 150 trucks and transported for 300 km between Jammu and Srinagar, twice a year.
The High Court judgment had questioned whether the government can afford the practice of Durbar Move at an annual expenditure of at least Rs 200 crore.
In the last week of June this year the Commissioner Secretary, Estates Department, M Raju, issued an order asking officials to vacate their quarters in the twin capital cities within three weeks.
LG Sinha on June 20 had announced that the Jammu and Kashmir administration has completely transitioned to e-office, thereby ending the practice of the biannual ”Durbar Move ”.
“Now both the Jammu and Srinagar secretariats can function normally for 12 months. This will save the government Rs 200 crore per year, which will be used for the welfare of the deprived sections,” Sinha had said.
The practice, under which the administration used to function in Jammu during the six months of winter and in Srinagar during the summer season, was started by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1872.