No Winter Secretariat for Valley as Durbar Moves to Jammu

Srinagar: Even as the government is struggling to restore law and order in Kashmir for the past around four months, the Peoples Democratic Party-Bharatiya Janta Party alliance has no plans to keep any special Winter Secretariat operational in the restive Valley, when the seat of governance is moving to Jammu for next six months.

While the civil secretariat offices here closed on October 27 to reopen in the winter capital on November 9, officials said the government has made no mention of keeping the any special secretariat operational in the summer capital.

A senior official said otherwise the General Administrative Department would issue orders for Winter Secretariat operations ahead of the durbar move.

While last year the then Mufti Muhammad Sayeed led government had surprisingly not kept any such facility operational this trouble-torn region, this time it’s a different situation.

Officials said given the prevalent unrest when there’s a need to keep “democratic check” on “policing and administrative working” in the restive region, depriving Kashmir of the much-needed Winter Secretariat will only further the problems for the people.

The Winter Secretariat used to have a staff strength of one  officer  of  the  rank of Special Secretary,  two Deputy Secretaries, Section  Officer/ Head Assistant/ Senior Assistant/ Junior Assistant (total four), two Stenographers and five Orderlies. Besides, duty roasters were officially issued for the availability of at least one Minister on rotational basis.

Officials said a decade ago in a bid to ensure that people don’t suffer when the seat of governance is away from their region, the then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had introduced the concept of summer and winter secretariats in 2006. That time Azad believed that people of trouble-torn area should have regular access to the seat of governance through special secretariats.

But last year Mufti Muhammad Sayeed changed the decade old tradition. Sources close to Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said she doesn’t want to undo the decision taken by her father and predecessor.

The government is leaving the Valley void of any secretariat facilities when Kashmir has been witnessing its “worst-ever humanitarian crises,” since July 8. On the fateful day, Hizb commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani and his two colleagues were killed triggering widespread protests, which snowballed into massive agitation.

Till now at least 94 people have been killed, over 15,000 wounded and around 10,000 arrested while some 1,000 youth lost their eyesight to use of force including pellet guns by government forces.  

The separatist leadership on the other hand is unwilling to break the protest calendar.

Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her cabinet, who have offices in the civil Secretariat, had been reviewing the abnormal situation, while Commissioner Secretaries and other senior officials would also attend the regular meetings on “law and order.”

The civil secretariat closes here as part of 144-year-old tradition of bi-annual shuttling of government offices between the twin capitals. The practice was started in 1872 by then Dogra rulers to “give a fillip to the economy of Jammu.”

As per the General Administration Department, 50 offices including civil secretariat move in full while 52 offices move in camp.

Over the years, many a voice questioned the practice, which costs the state exchequer  annually around  Rs 90 crores.

In April 2012, the then Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had termed Durbar Move “wastage of money and an escapist move.”

His father and the then Chief minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah held a similar opinion in1980s. But he had to face stiff resistance from Jammu-based lawyers, only to be silent over the issue since.

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