Secretariat reopens after 11 days, 90% employees fail to turn up

Srinagar: Civil Secretariat, the seat of Jammu and Kashmir government here, opened Thursday after 11 days but could not become fully operational as the ground floor of the seven-storey building is still under three feet of water.
Less than 10 per cent of the nearly 4000 employees, who work in various offices at the Civil Secretariat building, reported at the main gate at 9.30 AM – the scheduled time of opening of the offices.
The employees got their names entered in the attendance register maintained by the security personnel at the main gate and returned to their homes.
Forest Minister Mian Altaf Ahmad was the first to arrive at 11 AM followed by Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather at 11.20 AM and Tourism Minister Ghulam Ahmad Mir at 11.30 AM.
However, the ministers could not enter due to the water-logging in the ground floor. They instead entered the State Legislative Assembly complex, where water has been drained out, and stayed there.
The state government on Tuesday announced that the Civil Secretariat will start functioning from September 18 and directed the employees to report for work.
Several employees criticised the government decision’s to reopen the secretariat as “hasty.”
“How do they expect us to reach the office? The water in the ground floor of the building is still three feet high,” Bilqees, an employee, said.
She said at least the government should have made boats available for the employees to enter the offices.
Another employee said the decision to open the Civil Secretariat was a “mockery” of the tragedy that has befallen people of Jammu and Kashmir.
“If the ministers and top bureaucrats were so sincere about opening of offices, they should have been here at the reporting time. Why are they sitting in the comfort of their homes when most of us, who have been affected by floods, have come here?” Bashir Ahmad asked.
Although the authorities pressed in trucks to ferry the employees from the main gate to the Civil Secretariat building, the employees returned to the main gate without alighting from the vehicle anywhere.
Many media persons were not allowed beyond the main gate by the security personnel.
The authorities have pressed in service 15 fire tenders to dewater the premises of the Civil Secretariat but officials of the Fire and Emergency Services Department said it will take at least four days to drain out the water.
“Civil Secretariat is on a very low plane. The water from adjoining areas is flowing towards the Civil Secretariat, making it a long drawn process. Unless dewatering pumps are deployed in surrounding areas, the dewatering of the office building might take longer than four days,” Muhammad Imran, an employee of the Fire and Emergency Services Department, said.
Official account: According to a government spokesman, the Civil Secretariat resumed its activity after the recent floods with Chief Secretary, Mohammad Iqbal Khandey along with administrative secretaries and other senior officers taking stock of the damages caused to the records and other infrastructure.
The Chief Secretary, he said, reviewed the situation at a meeting of administrative secretaries and representatives of the employees unions.
Khandey directed using more pumps to dewater the premises and starting the clean-up operation accordingly.
He also directed Estates department to make necessary arrangements of accommodation for those darbar move employees whose dwellings came under floods.
As flood waters have not fully receded from the entire premises, the meeting decided to start the functioning of line departments from Old Secretariat premises from tomorrow till the clean-up process is over.
“Meanwhile around one thousand employees had reported for duty at the Civil Secretariat (Wednesday).” (with PTI inputs)

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