The pre-Independence practice of 'Darbar Move', the annual shifting of Jammu and Kashmir's Civil Secretariat from Jammu to Srinagar, began on Sunday with Valley-based employees and advance parties arriving in Srinagar.
The Civil Secretariat closed in Jammu on April 29 and will reopen in Srinagar on May 9. It will close here in late October and reopen in Jammu in the first week of November.
However, the practice started by Maharaja Gulab Singh in 1872 to take escape extreme weather conditions in Jammu and Srinagar, is proving costly for the state exchequer as it has to spend crores of rupees twice a year to shift the massive workforce and voluminous records between the twin capitals of the state.
There have been demands for putting an end to this practice of shifting offices but allegations of regional discrimination, both from the valley and Jammu, have prevented successive governments from even giving a thought to it.
The practice has come as an additional perk for the employees who work in the Move offices as, besides getting an extra two weeks of holidays on account of shifting of the records every year, they also get a five figure sum as allowances.
Hundreds of buses and trucks from State Road Transport Corporation have been pressed into service for shifting the 5,000-odd employees and truck loads of records from Jammu to Srinagar.
The moving of the offices have often been blamed for poor performance of the government machinery, especially in development and administrative works.
"Most of the time the senior bureaucrats and officers have to shuttle between Jammu and Srinagar for attending meetings or some times to their personal cases like promotion and transfers. This affects their office work badly," retired official, G M Parray, said.
Parray said with latest technology available, this practice should now come to an end and the meetings should be held via video conferencing.
"Just one or two meetings chaired by the Chief Minister over video conferencing have proven just symbolic. This should become part of the administration," he said.
Besides the 5000 employees, the state government has to provide accommodation to ministers, MLAs, their personnel staff and in some cases journalists too.
The state government has to maintain two sets of Raj Bhawans, Civil Secretariats, Chief Minister's official residences, private offices for the CM, police headquarters, etc.
Meanwhile, the summer capital of the state is being spruced up with repair works on roads and railings for the traditional Darbar move.
Patchwork on the potholed roads of the city and paintwork on the edges of pavements and roadside railings is in full swing.
Officials in the Roads and Buildings department said they have undertaken the works for beautification of the entire city and not just the area around Civil Secretariat.
Labourers have also been engaged in removing the dust and filth from roads, corners and streets which had got deposited during winter months, the officials said.
Apart from repairs on the city roads, ministers' bungalows and residential quarters for the government employees are also being renovated for the Darbar move.
While most of the residents welcome the beautification work in the city, there are some who are critical of the exercise which they describe as cosmetic and superficial treatment to deep rooted problems faced by the city residents.
"It is good that finally the government has woken up to our problems. The roads were in bad shape due to snow and rains as there were potholes everywhere," said Tariq Ahmad, a shopkeeper in Lal Chowk.
However, Bilal Ahmad, a computer engineer, feels that the government iss trying to make the stay of its ministers and bureaucrats comfortable during their stay in the summer capital.