Frivolous expenditure ended, not Darbar Move: Secretary GAD

Frivolous expenditure ended, not Darbar Move: Secretary GAD
He maintained that the cost-cutting initiative began with the Estates department and then the efforts were made to infuse fiscal prudence in SREs, movement of files, computers.
File/ GK

Jammu: Has 149-year old practice of bi-annual Darbar Move in J&K ended?

Juggling with too many storms already, J&K is presently embroiled in this hullabaloo, which though is administrative in nature yet has the potential of political flare-up.

Has it been abandoned? Was the cancellation of allotment of accommodation of Move employees a final step in this direction as was being projected in media as well as in social and political circles?

Going by the lucid explanation offered by none other than the J&K General Administration Department (GAD) Commissioner Secretary M K Dwivedi on this issue, the answer is ‘no.’

Murmurs began with the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha’s assertion made in his monthly radio programme “Awaam Ki Awaaz.”

However, Dwivedi tries to set the record straight.

“No. One should go into the spirit of his (LG’s) assertions. What he meant to say is that much of frivolous expenditure and frivolous energy wasting exercise, consumed in the biannual Darbar Move practice, has been restricted or reduced to a significant level because of e-office or e-governance. Fiscal imprudence and time wastage would come to an end with these cost cutting measures. One needs to grasp the real essence of his statement.”

The Lt Governor had stated in his address, “Today the Jammu and Kashmir administration has completely transitioned to e-office, thereby ending the practice of hundreds of years old Darbar Move. Now both the Jammu and Srinagar secretariats can function normally for twelve months. This will save the government Rs 200 Cr per year, which will be used for the welfare of the deprived sections.”

Murmurs initiated by LG’s address were replaced by louder noises by employees and other sections of society in both the regions and subsequent political rhetoric after the issuance of an order by the J&K Estate Department on June 30.

The department had cancelled the allotment of residential accommodations of Move employees of Civil Secretariat in Jammu as well as Srinagar. As per the order, the employees were given 21 days to vacate their accommodations.

Officially speaking, the cancellation order was made in pursuance to the earlier GAD orders issued in the month of April with reference to deferring of ‘Darbar Move’ in the wake of Covid 19 pandemic. The cancellation was made on “the basis of employees’ location orders issued by GAD.”

Yet it was projected in the media reports as the “official end of Darbar Move” practice. Thus ensued a flurry of politically loaded statements criticising the move aiming at ending the “people-to-people’ contact between Jammu and Kashmir. Surprisingly, none from the government made an attempt to set the records straight.

Thus all these thorny issues were posed to the GAD Commissioner Secretary for a clearer picture on this issue.

Has the practice of Darbar Move been abandoned?

This was the first direct poser of the Greater Kashmir to Dwivedi and his response too was precise.

“No, no..It’s not like that. If we’re presently sitting in Srinagar, it is because that the capital is here (in Srinagar) at the moment. Had the practice been abandoned, the seat of governance would have not been here. We could have been anywhere.”

Then why this cancellation of allotment of accommodation of Move employees was being taken as “the end of Darbar Move” practice – was the next poser.

Responding to this, the GAD Commissioner Secretary came with a detailed reply. “See, this has a background. Last year, the J&K High Court, while hearing a related case, had sought a lot of details from us viz., how much is spent on the Darbar Move, what is expended on what component and how can these expenses be curtailed etc. As this practice (Move) involved a number of components, the administration worked on them to devise ways to cut extravagant or wasteful expenditures. One component related to the physical transfer of files. This used to be an annual cumbersome exercise which would also result in damages to some important documents (files) occasionally.”

“So when we implemented the e-office initiative, it made this exercise (physical transfer of files) almost redundant. Following the transition to e-office, if we need some files, they can be scanned and made available wherever they are needed, be it in Jammu or Srinagar. This too led to cost cutting,” he elucidated.

According to Dwivedi, the second component, which had the scope for cost-cutting, was related to accommodation to be provided to Move employees. Majority of the Move employees would have two accommodations, one each in two capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu. With the shift of capital, one house would remain locked for the whole six months of the Move period.

“So on this ground, a critical assessment has been made to identify the minimum number of employees, who given their crucial job profile, will have to be provided with houses, both in Jammu and Srinagar. For the rest, the simple proposition is – why they need houses at both the places. Then there was another aspect, most of the Jammu employees did not move to Srinagar this time because of Covid pandemic and also because of the transition to e-office. Since they were not (required) here as through e-office, they could digitally operate from any place,” the GAD Commissioner Secretary pointed out.

He maintained that this also resulted into a huge cut in Security Related Expenditures (SREs), otherwise the government used to provide them accommodations in hotels or other places hence had to expend on their security as well.

But the politicians are referring to this move as “penny wise, pound foolish.” Faced with this query, Dwivedi, while evading the political connotation, again restricts himself to the administrative aspect.

“See with this move, firstly expenditure has been cut down. Secondly this Darbar move practice has been linked to the application of mind. It won’t be like that as a part of Darbar Move all employees would shift to the summer or winter capital (as the case may be), all files would be taken along and all would be provided with two houses,” he maintains.

Further elucidating the point, he avers, “The application of mind suggests – only files, which cannot be scanned, will be taken along during Move. Only those employees, whose presence is absolutely warranted, will move. The houses will be provided to only those who cannot do without it and their cause is justifiable. For example, if an employee hails from Doda and he or she is not having an accommodation in Jammu, he (she) will be provided with the facility, irrespective of Darbar Move or no Move.”

He maintained that the cost-cutting initiative began with the Estates department and then the efforts were made to infuse fiscal prudence in SREs, movement of files, computers.

“These moves will lead to long term cost cutting implications and obviously the money saved would be expended for the public welfare initiatives only as the Lieutenant Governor too has mentioned many a time,” he asserts.

“To avoid mis-perception, one can understand this issue from another perspective also. See, the top bureaucracy is here because the seat of power or governance is here. No change has been effected with respect to winter capital or summer capital. Have you encountered any order or notification related to change of status in the summer capital or winter capital? Has the movement of people restricted at Banihal, Ramban? The people are not being sent back from Jammu to Srinagar or vice versa. So why is this hullabaloo? Only thing is that we’ve restricted the routine mindless application of the practices under the Darbar Move viz., enmasse movement of employees, files, computers loaded in the trucks from Jammu to Srinagar and vice versa every six months. This has been curbed and efforts are being made to bring them to a reasonable level,” Dwivedi states.

“Was it not weird to shift computers from one capital city to the other every six months? Rational proposition is that Jammu users should get computers here while users in Srinagar should have them there. A buffer stock positioning will be there at both the places so as to accommodate additional users on account of transfers, postings or for some other reason. Earlier the entire paraphernalia including computers, other accessories would move to the other capital city for six months. But now this has been cut down and rationalised, yet with the application of mind,” he points out.

As per his assertions, it is being done on the basis of assessment as to which officers will need accommodation at both the places and then they will be provided with just the bare essentials.

“What the Lieutenant Governor stated was that by using e-governance as a tool, we’ve ended the mindless exercise. But sadly it is being taken with a prejudiced view as if some political decision has been taken. This should not be taken as a move to create a wedge between the two regions as is being projected. This is not justifiable. Still if any employee (from Jammu or Kashmir) comes to us with a valid reason and chooses to move to the other region, it is permissible. None has stopped the Jammu employees to work in Kashmir and vice versa but it will be need-based with a rationale, not as a part of mindless frivolous exercise,” he again tries to set the record straight about LG’s assertion.

But why the government did not take any steps to clear the air on its own.

His response to this poser was a bit evasive.

“I am not aware of any such confusion, if it persists. I was on leave last week. In the first place, there should be no confusion at all. And even if it is there, we will use the good services of the media and other means to remove it. Resorting to cost-cutting with this kind of intelligent exercise and to use the tool of e-governance are the need of the hour. This is, in particular, utmost necessary during the Covid pandemic. Still if some confusion is being created on this account then it may be a deliberate move. On that account, I cannot comment.”

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