JAMMU: With chorus on deferment of this year’s Darbar Move to Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital is getting louder, the Centre is likely to take a call on the popular demand of the government employees, both from the Kashmir Valley and the Jammu region on April 20. Indication to this effect was given by Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office, Dr Jitendra Singh while talking to STATE TIMES on Tuesday, saying the Government of India is seized of the issue. Jammu and Kashmir Administration has on Friday last ordered the opening of the annual Darbar Move offices in Srinagar on May 4 with a rider about employees to work on ‘as is where is’ basis, citing the unprecedented situation in the wake of coronavirus and consequent lockdown in the first spell from March 25, which ended today but was extended by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi till May 3. The General Administration Department in its order issued on April 10, stated, “In view of the extraordinary circumstances due to COVID-19 pandemic, the Civil Secretariat at Jammu shall continue to remain functional and the Move employees shall work on “as is where is” basis i.e. Kashmir-based staff shall work from Srinagar and Jammu-based from Jammu.” The practice of ”Darbar Move”started by Maharaja Ranbir Singh in 1872 to escape the extreme weather conditions in the two regions came into focus and scanner for the first time, with employees irrespective of their region fear the move may jeopardize their lives. From the senior ranks of the Administrative Secretaries down below to Class IV employees, the feeling of healthy emergency is a predominant that has already taken toll of the usual enthusiasm attached with the biannual Darbar Move. Several officers in the higher echelons of the administration and the non-gazetted employees feared that they, as also their families, may have to undergo mandatory 14 days quarantine on arriving to the summer capital. This will be a repeat routine for all those shuttling between the two capitals on official works during the restrictions, which many of them fear to continue for a longer time. The Darbar Move employees of the Civil Secretariat and Heads of Department offices are feeling uneasy over the decision, questioning its efficacy in the emergent health situation, and calling for its roll-back till the conditions normalize. They ask that how the move offices will function, as most of the employees belong to the Valley, who are required to come from various parts of Kashmir, which will be quite impossible in absence of road or rail transport that stands halted. While the senior officers may be lodged in the best available hotels and other facilities, what about the other category of employees who reside in their homes. The hotels, interestingly, are reported to be in the areas declared as ‘Red Zones’. The employees see no logic in shifting the Darbar, as Prime Minister has announced the extension of lockdown till May 3, under which there is supposed to be no movement of vehicles and the people. Most of them will be confined to their homes and if at all some would be required to move out, this will entail movement of avoidable government vehicles on the roads. The employees see no justification in incurring huge expenditure on the partial Darbar Move, saying the money as also the resources could be utilized for welfare and well being of the front line workers combating corona virus at the peril of their lives. The stakeholders are moving all channels and pleading the decision makers, both at the Centre and here, to end the uncertainty with regard to move of offices. They also plead that the move in its present format will be a futile exercise and many impact the functioning of the governance, which is expected to be at its best, given the unprecedented health emergency. The government order has also come under the judicial scrutiny. A plea has been filed in the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, stating that the government decision required a serious judicial review. The petition contended that the move would cause an “unbearable strain on all facilities in the Valley”, could deeply endanger the health and even lives of the locals, cause unnecessary squandering of financial resources and would critically impact Covid-19 concerns in Srinagar and result in immediate dilution of the already scarce resources of the Union Territory. In its directive, the High Court has sought details of the last four Darbar Moves in 2018 and 2019, including security arrangements made for the process, the expenditure incurred on transportation and accommodation of government employees and financial benefits in the form of move allowance given to employees. “In order to enable a considered view to be taken, it is necessary to have firm information with regard to the implications of the Darbar Move in these times; its impact on the necessary resources at this stage; on the personnel involved (positions and number); financial implications; arrangements (transport, accommodation, security, etc) involved and other relevant matters. Past experience would lend guidance to our consideration,” said the High Court comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Judge Rajnesh Oswal. In a Public Interest Litigation filed by Azra Usmail on various issues in the wake of coronavirus, Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Judge Rajnesh Oswal have sought reply before the next date of hearing, which has b een listed through video conferencing at 11.30 AM on April 16, 2020.
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