September 27, 2021
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Good morning. When we visit someone, we often have the habit of giving them gifts as a memorable gesture.
As you all know, PM Narendra Modi visited the US last week. During this visit, he met with Vice President Kamala Harris, Australian and Japanese counterparts, Scott Morrison and Yoshihide Suga. He offered each of them a unique gift. One of the gifts was a wooden handicraft frame containing old notices related to Kamala Harris’ grandfather PV Gopalan, who was a respected Government official at that time. It’s always interesting to receive gifts that have a personal touch, don’t you think?
📰 FEATURE STORY
J&K: Debating the Darbar move
The pandemic has taught us a lot of new lessons. The most predominant lesson is that you don’t have to be physically present in your office during work hours. This work-from-home culture has been adopted by different government departments too. So when the Jammu and Kashmir government decided to start functioning virtually, it came as no surprise.
Darbar move is a 149-year-old historic practice, by virtue of which the J&K government would shift its administration from Srinagar in summer to Jammu in winter. However, a couple of months back, the union territory announced that this shift in the seats of governance would come to an end. They said it would save plenty of money, travel time and effort. Alas, this announcement has received heavy opposition from the public. People are outraged that a traditional practice has been called off by the government.
Jammu and Kashmir has extreme climatic conditions throughout the year. While Jammu faces very hot summers, Kashmir is known for its harsh winters. To escape the tough climate, the government decided to have two capitals in the union territory. That’s how Jammu became the winter capital and Srinagar, the summer capital.
Every year, the admin camps in J&K shift between the two bases. They stay and govern from each capital for precisely six months. So, the government functioned from Srinagar between May and October and would shift to Jammu for the November-April term. In essence, this bi-annual shift between the capitals is called the ‘Darbar move.’
We said that this is an age-old practice in the UT. So let’s quickly trace the timeline of events from 1872 to 2021. Reports tell us that this practice was introduced by Maharaja Ranbir Singh in 1872. Singh was the one who devised the capital shifting idea and was much appreciated for it. Even after his death, this practice was carried forward because people found it very convenient. The Darbar move continued through the post-independence era and remained unquestioned for a long time.
However, sometime in the 1980s, the J&K government under Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah decided to stop the Darbar tradition. They came up with an idea to bifurcate the secretariat such that some government offices were permanently in Jammu and others were in Srinagar. As soon as they revealed this plan, the people in Jammu called for a strike. After 45 days of strike, the government gave in to the people and reversed their decision.
After all this while, the Darbar move has come under scrutiny only in recent years. On June 20, 2021, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha announced that the Darbar ritual would come to an end. Ten days later, an official order was issued informing all government employees to vacate their Darbar move accommodations within 21 days.
The Darbar move has reached the right end
Imagine 10,000 employees shifting their civil secretariats from Srinagar to Jammu every six months. It’s not just the humans who shuttle back and forth; they carry with them thousands of files. Crossing 300 kilometers over the highway, they reach another city and work there temporarily and come back.
Well, as you can see, there are huge risks involved in this process. First is the eminent difficulty in transporting so many files. So far, hundreds of vehicles were engaged in carrying the documents safely. These trucks and buses would be accompanied by police and paramilitary forces to ensure that the files were safe.
Transportation of files itself cost the government dearly. Add to that providing accommodation for employees and various other expenses. Nearly ₹200 crore was spent on the Darbar move every year. But if the government stopped shifting bases, they could save this huge amount of money and use it for the welfare of the people. Moreover, the secretariats can function normally throughout 12 months, without any inconvenience.
Practically speaking, the government had digitised almost 3 lakh physical files during the pandemic. A fully functional e-office has also been set up, which the government believes would increase transparency in work. So there is no rational reason for them to go ahead with the Darbar move.
The decision to stop the Darbar move tradition has also received legal backing. In 2020, the J&K High Court ruled that there was no legal justification or constitutional validity in the Darbar move. The court called it an ‘unnecessary activity’ that wasted a lot of time, efforts and energy of the government.
Come to think of it this way. Back in 1872, only a few officers and records were present in J&K. So the representatives could easily shift bases. But currently, over 151 government departments and 10,000 personnel are there in the union territory. Travelling back and forth is not very feasible.
It is wrong to end the Darbar move
While the court and government had discarded the Darbar move as unnecessary, the tradition actually holds a lot of importance in the life of a commoner. First off, this has been the routine lifestyle of the people for 149 years. That’s nearly a century and half. So to cut it loose from their lives will not be as easy as it sounds. They have lost their tradition and the many benefits that come with it.
What are these benefits? Quite obviously, the monetary benefits that the Darbar move brought for the people. When the Darbar move was brought in, it was not just the climate conditions that was thought about. It was also an economic opportunity for the people in both Jammu and Srinagar. But with the end of this tradition, tens of thousands of personnel would stop moving between cities. Many businesses would take the fall. Small traders and businessmen would face heavy losses. In all, the local economy would be disrupted hugely.
People say there is another important motive behind the Darbar move. It was seen as a means of bridging the gap between Jammu and Kashmir. The two regions are very different in cultural, economic and political dimensions. So when the Kashmiris travelled to Jammu, the locals bonded with the other culture and also made money out of it. But by sealing shut the Darbar move, it is likely that the social and emotional divide between the two regions will increase.
Lastly, there is a political angle to this story as well. The Jammu Chamber of Commerce and Industries President Arun Gupta revealed that when the Abdullah government started talks on ending the Darbar move, the BJP had opposed it. The BJP had supported the traders and prevented the end of the Darbar move. Ironically, the same party has changed its stance and has chosen to end the Darbar move. This would mean the loss of thousands of crores of money for several businesses.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
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🏴 STATE OF THE STATES
Water Taxi (Maharashtra) – States are looking forward to making more use of travel options through waterways. Earlier J&K held trial runs for its water bus idea. Now, Mumbai is all set to try out a three-decade-old plan. The Maharashtra Maritime Board (MMB) is planning to conduct a trial run of the water taxi service. This will run between Belapur in Navi Mumbai to the domestic terminal at Ferry Wharf in Mumbai. The trial run is likely to be held in October. If all goes well, we might as well travel by water taxi from South Mumbai to Navi Mumbai.
Special Training (Arunachal Pradesh) – Police officers have the responsibility of keeping us safe. Today, the crime world has moved beyond physical means and has gotten into the dark web and cybercrimes. So police officials must hone their skills and keep themselves updated. Keeping this in mind, 16 probationary deputy superintendents of Arunachal Pradesh underwent a 12-day training. Besides forensics and investigation techniques, the training was given in areas like internet banking, fraud, dark web, cybercrime, crime scene management, fake news detection and more. Police officials taking this extra step to train to protect us in a better manner certainly makes us all proud and happy.
Crackdown on Crime (Tamil Nadu) – Big police operations have always resulted in arresting several criminals and busting their crimes. Take a look at Tamil Nadu’s statewide storming operation that took place until last Saturday. Under the Director-General of Police C.Sylendra Babu, the city and district police officials conducted an operation following a couple of murders in the state. This operation took place from September 23 to 25. With strict findings and simultaneous vehicle checks, a total of 2,512 persons were arrested by the police. 5 country-made guns and 929 knives were seized from the arrested accused. Know what? Police also announced that such crackdowns will continue against criminals who are involved in murders in the state.
Deliberate Hit (Jharkhand) – We all remember the accident that killed Dhanbad district judge Uttam Anand. A probe into the accident was initiated earlier. In the recent update, the CBI has informed Jharkhand High Court that the accident was a deliberate hit. He was intentionally hit by an auto rickshaw during the morning walk. This was based on the recreation of the crime scene, examination of CCTV footage, 3D analysis of the crime footage and forensic evidence. CBI is probing to find the motive for the murder. As the officials continue to investigate, let’s hope that justice prevails.
Women Power (Delhi) – Women empowerment is directly proportional to the development of a nation. Indian women are increasingly working in different levels of jobs and are reaching higher positions. For the first time, six women IPS officers are district Deputy Commissioners of Police in Delhi. Out of the 15 districts, three already had a women DCP. An order released by the Home Ministry has confirmed three more postings. Benita Mary Jaiker, Esha Pandey, Shweta Chauhan, Usha Rangnani, Urvija Goel and Priyanka Kashyap are the six IPS DCPs. They are happy that everyone is given an equal opportunity and asserted that the public will welcome this decision. This decision will indeed go a long way in encouraging more women officers in the future.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
₹1.72 trillion – Advance tax collection during the second quarter of this fiscal year. FYI, advance tax refers to the advance payment of income tax instead of making a lump sum payment at the end of the financial year. When compared to the same period in 2020-2021, the growth rate stands at 52.2%.