J&K: India’s only state with bi-annual shifting of Darbar

RATTAN SHARMA
JAMMU, NOV 5

The 145-year-old trend of Darbar Move has devoured billions of rupees from the state exchequer, while the unemployed youth continue to be on the streets demanding employment.
With a huge amount being spent every six months on the face lifting of ministers’ bungalows and employees’ quarters for the event of Darbar move in Jammu and Kashmir, the future of thousands of unemployed youth has been left in the lurch.
According to financial experts, the 145-year-old practice of Darbar Move has devoured billions of rupees from the state exchequer so far. Jammu and Kashmir is the only state in India where Darbar (government offices of all departments) are shifted bi-annually.
Demands have been raised from time to time to put an end to this unnecessary practice but with no success.
Former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah tried to stop this practice when he issued orders to keep the Secretariat in Srinagar throughout the year in 1987. Farooq Abdullah’s decision faced vehement opposition from politicians of Jammu region and he was forced to reverse his decision within a month.
This mass exodus of around one lakh government employees puts an additional burden of crores of rupees on the state exchequer. The major item of expense is the move travel allowance as the government pays a TA of Rs. 10,000 to each employee twice a year, irrespective of his or her designation.
With no concrete employment policy, protests by the unemployed asking for jobs, has become almost a routine affair in the Jammu and Kashmir. But the government seems oblivious to the magnitude of the problem.
Moreover, there are innumerable cases where employees haven’t been paid salaries for months together put forth the excuse of financial crunch for the delay.
In its regime in the state, the PDP-BJP coalition government could not form a concrete policy for ending the alarming problem of unemployment. Even the government could not formulate regularization policy for the 10 +2 contractual lecturers who are on hunger strike for the last many days.
On the other hand, the State government continues to spend crores of rupees annually in connection with Darbar Move (the move of State secretariat from Srinagar to Jammu and vice versa). This happens despite the fact that the State depends heavily on the central government for financial resources. Twice a year, the official records are packed in boxes and moved back and forth in trucks which is nothing but an unnecessary burden.
However it is strange that there seems to be no financial crunch when it comes to face lifting of ministers’ bungalows.
Ahead of the bi-annual move of offices from Srinagar to Jammu, the Civil Secretariat building and other office complexes, alongwith the accommodations of employees, has been given fresh face-lift in Jammu. Rooms of ministers, senior bureaucrats have been spruced. In various government quarters, even the walls were cemented for the convenience of employees.
A senior officer supervising the renovation work said that they have carried out renovation work inside the Civil Secretariat to welcome the Darbar Move employees.
As per the schedule, the Darbar has already closed in Srinagar on October 27, and will reopen in Jammu on November 6.
The trend of shifting State Secretariat from one state capital to another has been going on in the state since 1872, the era of Maharaja Ranbir Singh.
No state government could dare to moot the idea of discontinuing the practice due to the fear that it would increase the feeling of alienation between Muslim and Hindu.
People from both Jammu and Kashmir divisions, are not happy with the six-monthly shifting of the secretariat.
Thousands of unemployed youth are waiting for jobs but their future seems to be bleak, as the coalition partners in the state government are busier solving their internal differences than formulating an employment policy.
A senior official said, on the condition of anonymity, that state government is yet to come up with a comprehensive policy for addressing the curse of unemployment, which is increasing with each passing day.
Though the government introduced schemes to overcome the problem of unemployment, yet these policies, providing temporary jobs to the educated youth, have also come under sharp criticism.
Unemployment has caused frustration among the youth, which is forcing them into many illegal trades, experts opine. It has forced them to indulge in anti-social activities like theft, said a retired police officer.