The Jammu and Kashmir government today began functioning here after shifting from Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, as part of the pre-Independence practice of “darbar move”. The Civil Secretariat, Raj Bhavan, police headquarters and other offices opened here with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti inspecting a guard of honour at the seat of government here. The reopening of government offices here was marked by protests by the Congress and a partial strike by a traders federation to highlight the alleged failure of the PDP-BJP dispensation to address their issues. Accompanied by Minister of State for Education Priya Sethi, the chief minister met employees on the first day of darbar move. “Darbar move offices have been opened here and we hope to ensure that we bring best possible governance to the people of the state,” Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh said. Singh said the government will reach out to all sections of people and all areas of the three regions for best possible development on all fronts. The Civil Secretariat and other ‘darbar move’ offices function in Srinagar for six months of summer and in Jammu for the remaining six months of the year. The practice of “darbar move” was started by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1872 to escape the summer heat of Jammu and the biting winters of Srinagar. In view of the protests and strike by Jammu traders, security has been bolstered and roads leading to the Civil Secretariat have been barricaded.
J&K Congress chief Gulam Ahmed Mir led an anti-government rally and staged a sit-in over the alleged failure of the government on all fronts. The deputy chief minister said, “Everybody in a democracy has the right to protest. There is no ban on protests.” The bandh call was given by Chamber of Traders Federation (CTF) to protest toll tax on goods imported from outside the state and to press for public holiday on the birth anniversary of last Dogra ruler Maharaja Hari Singh. While many organisations including Jammu High Court Bar Association, Congress, National Panthers Party and Team Jammu extended support to the strike call, Bari Brahmana Industries Association (BBIA) opposed it. It said “the toll post is working as a tool to stop the import of unaccounted goods by “vested interests”. Closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras at important installations and thoroughfares have been made operational to maintain a close vigil.
The winter capital has been given a face-lift ahead of the re-opening of the ‘move offices’. The roads around and leading to the Civil Secretariat, the seat of Jammu and Kashmir government, are being renovated with labourers busy cleaning the pathways and painting the roadsides. Government offices and quarters have been renovated and the damaged street lights repaired, officials said. The state government spends crores of rupees every year to shift voluminous records between the two capital cities twice a year, besides paying a huge amount as allowance to several thousand employees who shift base with the government. There have been demands from various quarters to abolish the practice and set up permanent civil secretariats in Jammu and Srinagar.