Economics of “Darbar Move'

It needs to be preserved, strengthened & promoted to maintain the regional diversities.

Month of October has got a unique significance for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It has a sort of spiritual significance, a socio-economic angle and, of course, a political angle. Exactly 70 years back, hectic political activities engulfed the state. Finally a ‘dispute’ was born which at the moment remains as one of the oldest ‘geographical disputes’ (some call it ‘issue’) in the world.  

However, let’s not go into the political angle of the month, except revisiting some ‘spiritual’ threads which political captains derived out of this month (October), especially when Chinar leaves with changed colour cause the rustling sound and breaking the silence. For example, ‘Sher-i-Kashmir’ Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah came out with his autobiography ‘Aatish-i-Chinar’ (‘Flame of Chinar’). Indira Gandhi, former Indian Prime Minister, never used to miss her visit to Kashmir in October to taste the fascination of the Chinar trees. Notably, she was assassinated same month but not before visiting Kashmir same month in 1984.

Notably, psychiatrists believe that the falling Chinar leaves with changed colour unleashing mystique rustling musical tones help to fight the seasonal depression and motivate the people around to undertake pleasurable activities. It makes a sense here to reproduce Sir Muhammad Iqbal’s famous couplet: ‘ Jis khaak ke zameer me hai aatish-e-chinar, Mumkin nahi ki sard ho woh khaak-e-arjumand (The dust that carries in its conscience the fire of the Chinar, It is impossible for that celestial dust to cool down).

Anyways,these things apart, one of the most outstanding events happening in this month is the  century-old practice of ‘Darbar Move’ when frontline government machinery moves to winter capital Jammu to run the affairs of the state. Remarkably, ours is the only state in India which has two capitals, Srinagar & Jammu and accordingly under the banner of ‘Darbar Move’ government offices of all departments are shifted bi-annually.

For the past few decades, the practice has come under sharp criticism for the kind of spendthrift it involves in shifting State secretariat from one state capital to another.Omar Abdullah as CM in 2012 had called the ‘darbar move’ as a waste of money. But he was not, according to him, suggested a viable alternative and continued with the practive. Earlier his father Dr. Farooq Abdullah in 1987 as Chief Minister had ordered end to the ‘Move’ and declared secretariat to be permanently located at Srinagar. The decision was given political colour and vehemently opposed. Within a month’s time, Dr Farooq had to roll back his decision.

Basically, the two regions of Kashmir and Jammu are greatly diverse. Neither Kashmiris nor Jammuites would want to surrender the capital. However, over a period of time, forces opposing the practice have unwittingly contributed only to make the ‘Darbar Move’ as an important tool to maintain the harmony and integrity of the state. In fact, it has emerged as a vital bridge unifying the two regions.

So, when we look at this aspect of ‘Darbar Move’ connecting diverse regions of the state, the hue and cry on huge amount being spent on the shuffling the government machinery bi-annually seems vague. This is not expenditure but an investment in strengthening the socio-economic and religious diversity of the state. I don’t think, this ‘Darbar’ is a curse on the economic landscape of the state. In the given circumstances, it needs to be preserved and strengthened to maintain the regional diversities. Even this needs to be promoted through tourism platform to woo tourists, both domestic and international.

Now the question remains how to do it? Four months in a year (April, May, October & November) can be declared as ‘Darbar’ festival months. For example, in the months of October and November (When Darbar Moves from Srinagar to Jammu) festivals can be planned at both places and same can be repeated when the Darbar reshuffle back to Srinagar in April and May. Mega tourism festivals all along the national highway at strategic locations like Banihal, Batote, Patnitop Ramban, Udhampur etc. can be organized where arts& crafts, crops, folk music etc can become part of the festival. It would definitely generate life on the otherwise dull highway and also trigger socio-economic activities with a difference. Launching mega sports festival in twin cities on the occasion is not a bad idea. This would help the people to enjoy this bi-annual change rather than psychologically succumbing to it.

In succinct, let’s capitalize on the culture of ‘Darbar Move’. Transform it into a vital economic activity by bringing it on tourism map.

(The views are of the author & not the institution he works for)