SRINAGAR: This summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir has been given a facelift ahead of ‘Darbar Move’, the 140-year-old practice of bi-annual shifting of the state capital between Jammu and Srinagar.
As the Civil Secretariat and other offices that shift between the two capitals open here tomorrow, the administration is busy sprucing up the roads and pedestrian walkways with repair and paint works.
The potholed roads of the city are being repaired and a fresh coat of paint put on the elevated footpath ahead of the arrival of the government headed by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti to this summer capital.
Besides the beautification works, the concerned departments have engaged a large number of labourers to remove the dust and filth on the sides of the city roads that had been deposited during the winter months.
Apart from repairs on the city roads, the official residences of ministers and and top bureaucrats are also being renovated for the Darbar move.
In an effort to ensure that the employees do not face any problems during their six-month stay in Kashmir, several steps have been taken by the divisional administration.
The practice of ‘Darbar Move’ — under which the state government functions in Jammu during six winter months and in Srinagar during summer — was started by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1872 to escape extreme weather conditions in the two regions of the state.
However, the practice was continued even after Independence with the aim of providing governance benefits to both Kashmir and Jammu regions of the state for six months by turns.
While Jammu and Srinagar cities benefit from this practice as the roads and other infrastructure get the basic minimum repairs done on annual basis, the Darbar Move incurs expenditure of crores of rupees that could have been used for other productive activities every year.
The practice involves moving voluminous files between Jammu and Srinagar and thousands of employees between the two cities in hundreds of buses and trucks.
The employees who work in the Move offices, as these offices are known in the state, get two weeks of free holidays and compensatory allowances twice every year.
“This severely affects the common people as their works get stuck in this practice. Officially, the offices close for two weeks per year but the packing, shifting and unpacking of the documents consume six weeks,” Abdul Rehman, a retired government employee, said.
Rehman is not the only one who is critical of the Darbar Move.
Several political parties have in the past demanded scrapping the practice and instead establishing permanent offices both at Jammu and Srinagar.
Even the BJP, the coalition partner in Jammu and Kashmir government with the PDP, called for abandoning the Darbar Move practice last year.
According to conservative estimates, a resource-scarce Jammu and Kashmir is spending more than Rs 40 crore annually on this practice at a time when it is not able to pay wages in time to some teachers engaged by it under the SSA.