ORISSA ASSEMBLY SESSION ENDS IN ACRIMONY

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Public Fury Irrupts In The Well: Members Punished With Fine

The session of Orissa Legislative Assembly that ended today without any tangible transaction of business for three consecutive days, was a session of irruption of public fury in the House.

In these pages we have earlier noted how various projects have put people in financial straits. (http://orissamatters.com/news/index.php/2005/07/26/people-perish-under-project-induced-poverty-2/) Deprived of their ancestral properties affected people are left in the lurch for decades. The displaced are not rehabilitated at par with priority given to industries. In dire despondency they cry for help. But the State pays a deaf ear.

At least 48 % of Orissa’s population was listed below the poverty line (BPL) in 1997. As admitted by the Minister for Panchayatiraj in the House on Tuesday, this list has been rendered inconsequential since May 2003 under a Supreme Court Order that came down heavily on discernible irregularities in its preparation. The State has never moved the Supreme Court for removal of the injunction nor has it formulated any program of its own to ameliorate poverty of its people.

Admittedly Orissa has not developed any anti-poverty scheme. It depends entirely on and implements only the Central Government schemes to tackle poverty. All of those Schemes are meant only for the BPL people. When the BPL list lies defunct, it has not taken any step to ensure application of the Central Schemes to the State through any other means.

On the other hand, the people placed below the poverty line in 1997 are bound to have further perished. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) has registered a sixteen fold increase during this period as a result of which the Dearness Allowance for Government servants has been raised by the State Government from 4% of Basic Pay vide Notification No.33929/F dated August 12, 1998 to 64 % with effect from July 01, 2004 vide Notification No.22481/F of May 06, 05. Taking this phenomenal rise in CPI into consideration, one can safely say that the condition of people below poverty line must have further deteriorated in absence of any means to meet the rising dearness. Moreover, the number of people under despondency must have increased many folds than that in 1997. This is because the State Government has admittedly no program of its own to redress poverty.

Most of these unfortunate people survive on forest products. But, Naveen Patnaik’s hobnobbing with mine-owners and mineral dependant industries has ruined their chance of survival. People are furious, naturally.

This fury got its first gushing expression inside the Assembly on Tuesday when a team of five functionaries of a people’s forum called ‘Kalahandi Sachetana Nagarika Mancha’ (Forum of conscious people of Kalahandi) raised slogans from the visitors’ gallery of the House against the Government’s anti-people policies and patronization given to private industries such as the Vedanta Alumina Ltd at the cost of the common man.

They dropped printed leaflets from the gallery on members of the Assembly beseeching their rise against the Ministers-Industries nexus that works against the interest of the poor people of Orissa. They were apprehended by Assembly Security personnel but later released.

People’s fury did not stop at that point. It manifested in the House in protests against contact killing of a contractor by tender mafia at Kendrapada. In these pages at http://orissamatters.com/news/index.php/2005/08/10/explain-your-position-dear-chief-minister-please/ we have dealt with this sordid phenomena.

Eventually evidences surfaced to show that persons comprising the Chief Minister’s coterie have personal rapports with tender mafia. Conservative newspaper ‘The Samaja’ published a photo showing BJD MLA Atanu Sabyasachi, who is regarded as a person in the inner circle of Naveen Patnaik, in intimate company of a tender mafia. This formed crux of Opposition attack on the Government. They demanded that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) be authorized to enquiry into the Chief Minister’s coterie and tender mafia nexus and its role in the present misrule. The Chief minister refused to accept the Opposition demand and wanted them to be content with an enquiry by the Crime Branch of State police. He being the minister in charge of Police besides being the Chief Minister, the Opposition did not agree. It heightened its demand for enquiry by the CBI, because the Central Agency can be expected to act independently as it does not come within the administrative control of the CM. But the Government did not buzz.

This infuriated the Opposition. The public wrath against inefficiency and corrupt practices of the Government got reflected in the psyche of their representatives in the Opposition benches. What happened was a total bedlam.

The House had commenced this session with promulgation of a new set of code of conduct to ensure discipline amongst the members so that disruption of the proceedings does not happen. But a recalcitrant government generated a situation that saw total contravention of this code as some members of the Opposition broke the microphone of the Speaker and snatched papers away from him at the summit of unrelenting deadlock. A member hit the floor with a chair in despair as slogans against Naveen Pastnaik rent the air.

Speaker Maheshwar Mohanty allowed a motion that censored the Opposition for its undisciplined conduct in the House. In an unprecedented ruling, he also imposed a cash penalty amounting INR 20,000 each on three members of the Congress Legislative wing namely Debashis Pattanayak, Nimai Sarkar and Rabindra Mallick.

But Opposition stance did not change. The session ended with no improvement in the situation. Leader of Opposition J.B. Patnaik said that the Speaker’s action is a ploy to demoralize the Opposition members who are raising sensitive issues in the House.

However, when the stalemate was continuing, the House passed five Bills without testing their tenets in the matrix of Opposition opinion. They are: the Orissa Cooperative Society (Amendment) Bill, 2005, Orissa Lokpal and Lokayukta (Amendment) Bill, 2005, Orissa Entry Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2005, VAT Bill, 2005, and Orissa textile & Handloom services Bill, 2005. Entertainment tax Bill 2005 and Orissa Excise Bill 2005 were stashed for the Select Committee.

Opposition has alleged that the Speaker is not acting impartially.

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