Darbar Move

The Hill fort of Maharaja Gulab Singh, 1846 dr...

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By Ashok Handoo
PIB Features

New Delhi, May 19, 2011 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB-India) Jammu and Kashmir is the only state in the country that has the distinction of having two capitals- Srinagar in summer and Jammu in winter. That is because of an old tradition of shifting the State secretariat, the Heads of Department and some other offices between the two places every six months. Commonly known as Darbar Move, the offices work in Srinagar during summer and in Jammu during the winter. The State thus has two imposing secretariat buildings in Srinagar as well as Jammu.

The practice dates back to 1872, when the Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh ruled the State. The 140-year old practice continues even today. In the latest shift, the offices opened in Srinagar in the second week of May to move down to Jammu again in October.

The strain of the shift is evident in many ways. On top is the housing problem. The government has to provide accommodation to the shift employees both at Srinagar and Jammu. Those who cannot be accommodated in government accommodation are put up in private houses at government expenses.

The move involves shifting of the official files and records in truckloads under proper security. A convoy of buses is also required to transport employees from one place to another. Each employee is paid a lump sum amount called the move allowance each time the offices shift from Srinagar to Jammu or Jammu to Srinagar.

But that is only one side of the picture. There is a brighter side also to it. Jammu and Kashmir comprises two distinct regions. Kashmir, including Ladakh, is the coldest part which remains almost secluded due to heavy snowfall and cold during winter. On the other hand, Jammu is quite a warm region in summer. Shifting the Civil Secretariat to Jammu in winter and to Srinagar in summer provides a better working atmosphere in government offices which can possibly compensate for the workdays lost in transit.

There is another angle to it. Kashmir and Jammu divisions of the State are two distinct regions in many ways. Apart from different climatic conditions, they differ in the languages the people speak, the religions the people belong to and the cultural traditions they follow. Even the food habits and sartorial practices are quite different. To keep such diverse regions bound to each other, a constant interaction is necessary. Darbar Move thus plays an important role in fulfilling this requirement. It paves the way for better contacts between the two regions so vital for the State. It also means supplementing the economies of the two regions.

Perhaps that explains why the tradition, despite being a strain on the limited financial resources of the state, has been continuing for such a long time. Even when demands were raised in the past in certain quarters for stopping this practice, these met with stiff opposition. The people in the two regions believe that once this practice is stopped, the civil secretariat would be permanently stationed at only one place, causing hardships to the people of the other region to pursue their cases in the administration. Though Srinagar and Jammu are only 300 Kilometres apart, but the terrain is hilly and the only existing road link between the two regions is subject to vagaries of harsh weather during winter. The move would also mean a set back to the economy of the other region.

There is, therefore, enough justification to continue with the practice if the State has to function as a single administrative unit. What perhaps could be done is to streamline the system to reduce the overhead costs and the number of days lost in transit. That will go a long way in enabling the administration to serve the people better and fulfil their aspirations. (PIB Features)

Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of PIB or WBRi.

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