Balwant Singh Mankotia

This National Panthers Party lawmaker is in news these days. He is the petitioner in the apex court application filed by Prof Bhim Singh over the mysterious death in custody of NC worker and fixer Haji Syed Yusuf. The court has already issued notices in the case. The state government has received another notice from the high court in another application that Mankotia filed.

The later case is about the durbar move. It is ‘in the larger interest’ of the people of the three regions that Mankotia has challenged the annual exercise of the government when it moves its offices from Srinagar to Jammu for winter and vice versa for summer. The petition was accepted by the division bench comprising Justices Mr J P Singh and Mr Mohammad Yaqoob Mir. The bench has already issued notices to be returned within two months.

Mankotia has sought quashing of the government order (183-GAD of 2011 of October 10) to the extent of shifting of official records. He wants that official records pertaining to only Jammu region be shifted to Jammu and that of Kashmir be kept at civil secretariat Srinagar. He has invoked the working model of the high court in which records of the respective regions are kept in Srinagar and Jammu and only judges move. This model, the lawmaker says, is in the interest of all the three regions because people follow the files to Jammu and then to Srinagar. He says the offices can operate at both the places and implementation of his idea will ease a lot of pressure on the exchequer. Notices have been.

Regardless of the outcome of the petition, the bi-annual durbar move has remained an issue of debate since it was introduced by Dogra monarch Ranbir Singh in 1833 fearing a revolt against his exploitative rule in Kashmir. Successive governments have retained the practice afterwards. Now 41 departments manned by over 7600 employees move with their records twice a year fully and 45 others partially. The exercise devours 10 days every time for this lot of civil servants who work only five days a week. They are paid not less than Rs 5000 per head per move. It costs heavily both in actual expenditure and the loss of working time.

Even before Mankotia’s petition, a lot of people have tried to address the issue. During his tenure, Dr Farooq Abdullah in 1998 engaged Tata Consultancy Service (TCS) to implement in J&K the Secretariat Knowledge Information and Management System (SKIMS) costing Rs 10 crores. It would create a data center and enable the officers to access it from Jammu as well as Srinagar. The move would still be there but it would not entail hundreds of truckloads between the two capitals.

Prior to that the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1986 had suggested the durbar continue but let it work in Jammu when it is hot and let it go to Srinagar during theterrible cold months. The idea, he said, was that no elected government could leave its people in harsh conditions and escape. It failed! Over to Mankotia.

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