Friday, 9 December 2016

Who will save us from ourselves?

Reading Darbar Move as Governance Disaster

There are many painful reminders that we encounter too often that unmistakably mean we are specially abled people whom some ghosts have taken possession of. A few examples include:

  • When we are charged for electricity usage or heaters/boilers searched, or lights go off and every analysis stops at the point we can’t or haven’t realized full potential of water resources thanks to IWT and NHPC and India’s refusal to give counter-guarentees for mega-investment projects needed;
  • When there is a match between India and Pakistan and someone in us  can’t cheer for India or either of them;
  • When we try to fathom why State is the key employer, employees are too many and people are virtually dying for lack of jobs in resource rich State ( if we could only tap mineral and other resources under the earth, we would have almost no unemployment as has been argued by many an expert).
      While we may be one day cured of these disabilities, we may continue to be disabled because of our own choices and can’t blame the other as this is a species of internal occupation.
      Imagine a bill passed for digging out corpses to be taken for a new bath of ash/bones and transported hundreds of kilometres for the same purpose twice a year. Imagine sentencing few thousand people including the cream of our society to a strange kind of life sentence in which every year six months have to be spent outside home. Or recall that once upon a time there was a proposal to annually shift important establishments of all departments and business hubs and offices in Lal Chowk to far end of Uri for six months. There was no democracy and none opposed it. And when democracy came, nobody opposes it still even though it has become possible to get what this physical shift (dislocation) achieved through shifting softcopies of papers or digitally print hard parts as well. People continue doing it and most of them don’t even notice what is going on, needlessly, wastefully and mindlessly although various chief ministers did express their dissatisfaction over all this. Now all seem to suffer from gyaenz-nass and the stink doesn’t affect us. Dr Sirfaraz in a timely work has sought to correct our olfactory sense and let us hope that he does succeed in reaching out to those whose noses mater more than ours and they order the Municipality in-charge of governance decay to do something regarding it.
      Dr Sirfraz, in his second book Darbar Move: Socio-historical Aspects, has done a laudable service to the State, its employees and exchequer by sifting a wealth of data, interviews, historical accounts to make a strong case for ending the remnant of stone age and primitive tribalism when people would be slaves of their weather and change habitations accordingly. He reminds us, without invoking Foucault, of “not one but many silences, and they are an integral part of the strategies that underlie and permeate discourses.” It is a must read book for everyone who has to move to Jammu or Srinagar for visiting Secretariat, for all employees who have invested or who are invested in Darbar Move industry and for every politician who claims he thinks of Kashmir but doesn’t note how he is part of the silence that helps it suffer. Darbar Move is like a flood that deserts many a family and straddles countless wayfarers for six months, every year – a sort of Nile in fury every year. Sirfaraz, in his own rather unsophisticated manner that makes no use of current critical tools with academic critics and historians and analysts, has nevertheless succeeded in offering what would qualify as a proper critique that Foucault influentially noted “is not a matter of saying that things are not right as they are. It is a matter of pointing out on what kinds of assumptions, what kinds of familiar, unchallenged, unconsidered modes of thought the practices that we accept rest.” Although he has tried to use a language that avoids sharp judgments and an impression of angry critic – he himself is a conscious State employee – one can see, between the lines that “The manifest discourse, therefore, is really no more than the repressive presence of what it does not say; and this ‘not-said’ is a hollow that undermines from within all that is said.”
      It is Darbar move – its very name conjures dreaded images of feudal past. Who says Shaikh Sahib dealt a death blow to feudalism? Some of the major points that Sirfraz has taken pains to demonstrate – and convincingly does – include:

  • Darbar move is a governance disaster according to the most experts and victims – its victims are countless. The current logic for Darbar move requires or evokes a retort “Why not shift Secretariat to Ladakh for 3 months?” as Ladakhis are most hit but since they are attained in the virtue of silence, they aren’t heard. There is no good reason for Darbar move in an age of E-governance. There are many alternatives to the move that would take care of a few important issues that the move is assumed to handle more effectively. The author highlights social and cultural costs besides the well known economic costs and in fact he shows that the latter has been underplayed. Our new generation will laugh at various things but what it can’t laugh at but shiver when it will see photographs collected here in abundance. Darbar move is a dislocation of people which results in compound fracture of identity; it is a sort of forced migration to which people are subject.There are a few respondents who aren’t significantly affected by the move and who even are benefited in certain ways. But in democracy they shouldn’t have been dictating terms. Employees call for more perks and special schools and health cover if this has to continue. Some suggest that two secretariats could continue to function and let only top layer of bureaucracy/ministers who can fly in an hour to and fro shift. Mass of employees shouldn’t be punished. Those who argue against the status quo include, among others, ex-chief secretary, one prominent bureaucrat M Shafi Pandit, and ex-C.M. Omar Abdullah who in fact proposes to have reverse shift to address and identify with people at ground level in adverse climate.
      Reflecting on some observations of respondents and experts in the book one feels that Darbar move is six month prison sentence served to parents or family. It is neither required not sensible, conclude most of the employees. It is not just a relic of earlier ages that has lost its value long back.
      I asked a mystic who claimed access to esoteric government about the probable timing of K-resolution. He said not until the two regions of the State can solve Darbar Move or capital issue. (It will be a sign that these people can solve internal problems and do deserve the resolution involving external actors like Delhi and Islamabad.) Politically we haven’t been better placed to solve Darbar Move problem than today with both Jammu and Kashmir almost equally represented in power.

Some Proposals
I may be allowed to make some wild proposals – less wild than the one that under review:

  • Let all MLAs or MLCs or resistance leaders and all leaders who care about social, economic, psychological and other cultural problems or separatists call for mass hunger strike against a cause for which from Rajiv Gandhi to Omar Abdullah to common employees to business committees from both the divisions have been pleading.
  • Secretariats are enormously inefficient; they invoke Kafkasque fears for the more sensitive clerics or staff and people. They are dispensable in part and could be “printed” in a digital mode or integrated with respective Directorates.
  • Directors of DD Kashir and Radio Kashmir should play mourning tune whenever Drabar Move news is announced in honour of sighs and tears and dislocations and costs and absurdities that are evoked in those who care to reflect on the news content. One minute silence in honour of families of victims every year Darbar opens anew.
  • Ask those who write manifestos, on behalf of voters, to at least to promise end of Darbar Move in your next innings.
  • Give autonomy to different departments and to Director, the authority of Secretary or have a Secretary adjacent to the office of the Director for some decisions – there is no convincing logic why the Secretary can take certain decision and Director can’t in most of the cases and it is often the case that Secretaries may be non-technical.
      The fact that Darbar Move is tolerated by us all despite being recognized as a sore shows we are masochistic people – to say the least. We pay for our destruction. Despite our lamentation, Darbar Move will begin shortly and let us forget another insult because we have seen and borne so many insults in last few hundred years and amnesia has been the only mechanism to preserve sanity. So I take your leave to leave you in your golden silence. Keep watching. Keep moving. Keep weeping. It is the time of mourning or marsiyya.


I wonder if it is possible to consider Darbar Move type solution to Kashmir issue by rotating capital of J & K between Delhi and Islamabad for six months (location doesn’t matter in e-age and anyway real power/remote control of State capitals lies there even today) or between Muzaffarabad and Srinagar/Jammu/Leh quarterly. We knows geo-climatically, culturally , religiously and even politically more is common between two parts across LoC. Currently it is the cat that eats the cake it is supposed to distribute between two brothers. We all agree to leave the cat out. across the tunnel and Zojilla and we have mature leaders who can agree on this proposal. Anyway there are already long awaited unfilled seats in our assembly that could be filled by some such mechanism and this will help.

Disclaimer: The author has wisely chosen a disclaimer. So would I. It was some other self that wrote it. Subjects can’t afford offending organizers of Darbar Move as it is this Darbar that rules.

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