Governance Deficit

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Governance Deficit
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“We can’t do away with this practice of darbar move but steps should be taken so that people feel that governance is on their door steps. In winters everyone who is at the helm of affairs leaves for Jammu. Even those officers who are supposed to be here in Srinagar, could be taking stroll on the fashionable Residency Road of Jammu,’’

Asem Mohiuddin

In the first week of November offices of civil secretariat opened in winter capital Jammu, all the ministers, legislators, bureaucrats moved from the cold environs of Kashmir towards the plains of warm Jammu.

The officers will remain in Jammu for next six months as part of the annual Darbar move that was started by erstwhile Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir and this tradition despite opposition has been continuing from decades and it looks, it will remain as part and parcel in the administration of J&K.

Following a nearly 170-year-old tradition set up by the Dogra Maharajas of the state, the civil secretariat shuttles between the twin capitals of Srinagar and Jammu on six-monthly basis.

The tradition originated in 1846 when the British East India Company signed a treaty known as the Treaty of Amritsar, handing over control of hilly areas eastward of the Indus river and westward of the Ravi river to Dogra Maharaja Gulab Singh.

The civil secretariat closed in summer capital Srinagar on October 30. Soon after opening of offices in Jammu, J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti was accorded guard of honour on the lawns of the secretariat and later she had a brief interaction with the officers and top bureaucrats who will run the state and Valley from Jammu. Mehbooba, however, did not hold the traditional media conference which state chief ministers have been holding in the past.

Contrary to past this year, there will be no winter secretariat established in Srinagar to look after the problems faced by the people of Kashmir, in winters due to sub zero temperature and heavy snowfall the problems of people aggravate. 

In the past especially in winters when government officers and politicians were needed to be stationed in Valley where enjoying warm Jammu and came only after there was hue and cry due to absence of governance.

Before moving to winter capital, J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti along with senior cabinet ministers and top bureaucrats and Head of Departments of various departments organized a public darbar in south Kashmir’s Anantnag town. The aim of this public darbar, the PDP leaders said was to mitigate the problems of the common masses and outreach of the governance.

In these meetings chief minister tried to resolve the problems of the people by issuing on the spot orders. Mehbooba Mufti who is herself a legislator from Anantnag assembly segment met several delegations who had come for resolving their issues as many claim they seldom see their legislators and ministers.

The officials who were part of this darbar said that more than 50 delegations met chief minister and majority of these delegations returned satisfied as their problems were resolved on the spot.

It was perhaps the last big pubic interaction program of the J&K chief minister and she stayed in the town for night and in the morning left for Jammu. From past couple of months, chief minister held several such public interaction programs in various districts of Valley.

While PDP through these public darbars tried to score some brownie points, however, opposition termed it as a PDP darbar as according to opposition leaders it was meeting of J&K chief minister with her workers and problems faced by the common people were never resolved by the government.

However, these darbars are not only sufficient to portray the outreach of the government, instead government has to be present when people require it most and winter is the best time.

“The aim of this darbar was to help people especially by providing them governance on their doorsteps. It has been successful, especially when all the offices moved to Jammu. We will be organizing similar darbars in Jammu and parts of Valley in the winter months,’’ a senior PDP leader said

 Though there has been clamour for keeping the winter secretariat in Valley for three cold months – December, January and February like past years when senior cabinet ministers used to stay in the Valley in turns to redress the problems of masses during harsh winter, however, it seems the present government has decided to leave everything on the shoulders of the bureaucrats. Though J&K chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti and other ministers according to the officials would be travelling to Kashmir in these months.   

In the past leaving everything of governance on the officers especially junior officers has proved failure, especially during heavy snowfall when city got waterlogged, transport suspended and electricity remained snapped for days. The ministers and top politicians only came to Kashmir when situation had improved and ministers tried to take credit of restoration of basic services.

However, this time people have been demanding that government should try to establish a mini secretariat in Srinagar so that problems faced by the people should get redressed.

Likewise, the government should have tried to establish the same type of facility in Jammu region when all the offices move to the cool environs of the Srinagar and people of the Jammu who are facing scorching heat with temperature going up to 42 Degrees Celsius.

“We can’t do away with this practice of darbar move but steps should be taken so that people feel that governance is on their door steps. In winters everyone who is at the helm of affairs leaves for Jammu. Even those officers who are supposed to be here in Srinagar, could be taking stroll on the fashionable Residency Road of Jammu,’’ said editor of a news portal who didn’t wish to be named.

He said that Kashmir requires more attention due to prevailing situation and a small incident could snowball into a big controversy. “The government should seriously look on these issues, as failure of administration many a times leave people angry with the political setup. ‘’ 

 It is true while in summers people in Jammu are being neglected and same happens with the people of Kashmir in winters, especially when the power situation gets grim and people have to face erratic power crisis. Both the PDP and the BJP leaders have been trying to portray that government is taking every step to resolve the day to day problems faced by people, however, complaints about the missing governance are pouring in from almost all the parts of the Valley.

Not only the leaders of ruling party, even leaders of opposition parties whose only job is to highlight the miseries of the people during harsh winter days remain missing they also could been seem enjoying warmth of Jammu.

“The winters are toughest period for the people of Kashmir because people those who matter shift either towards Jammu and Delhi leaving the people at the mercy of almighty. It should have been the top priority of the government, unfortunately it is not and people get annoyed,’’ said G N Shakir, who writes for various newspapers.

Darbar move has become an essential part of the governance of the state despite lot of efforts is involved in this. Though doing away of darbar move could save lot of money from the state exchequer, however, it will create bridge between two parts of the state, especially Jammu and Kashmir. Especially, in Jammu darbar move has now become a political issue and it could cause tension there as economy of the Jammu region is directly dependent on the darbar move.

Instead, the present government should look for options to improve governance and all those running the government machinery should be made accountable. 

Otherwise people will lose faith on the governance. Time has come when government should take everything seriously in all three regions of the state – Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Though J&K chief minister had made a beginning by holding public darbars in rural areas and staying for the night, however, chief minister should order her legislators and ministers to devote much time in their areas so that people will feel close to governance.

In the past soon after the offices got closed, the ministers and bureaucrats along with their families used to shift to Jammu leaving common masses in Valley to face the vagaries of weather and hostile condition. Time has come when this practice should stop and people in none of the regions should feel left out or deprived. And it is up to the chief minister to take the first step in this direction.

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