ASSEMBLY MUST ENSURE THAT NO-GOVERNANCE IS NOT TENABLE

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa Legislative Assembly was shocked over a situation of no-governance in the State when Law Minister Biswabhusan Harichandan confessed in the House today that the report of the Judicial Commission of Enquiry held over death of six persons and maiming of many in the Temple of Sri Jagannath during Biju Patnaik’s chiefministersip on 26 November 1993 is missing.

Commenting on the present Chief Minister expressing eager intention to appoint a Judicial Commission of Enquiry on the killing of four persons and maiming of at least sixty in the same Temple on 04 November 06, we had noted:

Navin seems to have inherited this tactics from his father Biju Patnaik. When Biju was the Chief Minister and the State was drowned under misrule and chaos and in dire despondency the helpless people were madly seeking mercy of the God, a similar stampede had occurred in the same place of the temple of Jagannatha on November 26, 1993 killing as many as six persons on the spot and injuring hundreds. Biju had appointed a single-judge Judicial Commission of enquiry under Sri Bhubana Mohan Mohapatra to determine as to who was responsible for the mishap and to suggest remedies against future such possibilities. People of Orissa ousted Biju from office on 15 March 1995. Till then he had not taken any action on the Commission’s report nor had he ever bothered to take any action. His only intention in appointing the Judicial Commission of enquiry was to immediately divert public attention from his maladministration and then to burry the issue under his carpet sine die. No body has been notified as yet on what action has ever been taken on the findings of the said Commission, not even the State Assembly. Against this background, appointment of another Judicial Commission on the same sort of mishap on the same spot of the same Temple, when by coincidence, Biju’s son is in office, is a seer farce and nothing else.

Taking the clue, during discussion on an adjournment motion on the November 4 mishap, members wanted to know of the earlier Judicial Enquiry. The Minister admitted that the Report of the said Enquiry is missing in the Secretariat.

The House was shocked. Why the Report is missing? – asked they. This is indicative of no governance, alleged many. Who is responsible for this?-members wanted to know. The Speaker saved the moment from roaring turmoil by announcing an instruction that the minister must come with the report within a day. The Minister fidgeted. He begged for a week. The Speaker allowed the time and thus the issue got stashed for a week.

Was there anything in the Report that could have been embarrassing to the present CM, the killer mishap having happened during the time of Biju Patnaik, under whose cultivated aura only he is having his post? Was there anything that could have been disadvantageous to any body in the top echelon of power in the present regime had the Enquiry Report come to the gaze of the Assembly? Such questions shall go on hunting the minds of the people till the original Report is recovered and perused.

The original Report, if at all recovered, must be made available for public inspection as there is justification in suspecting that that might have been tampered with to do away with embarrassing findings, if any.

If the Government honors the orders of the Speaker and produces the Report after seven days, i.e. on 22 November 2006, it should be honest to say as to wherefrom the Report got recovered and who was keeping it off the records and why.

Every Commission of Enquiry is conducted with the funds placed by the Assembly at the disposal of the Government. Hence the Assembly has the right to know of its finding along with the action taken report (ATR). The Government must explain as to why has the Report as well as the corresponding ATR were not placed before the Assembly.

The Assembly has a research wing well equipped with computers and internet and a director of research with his staff. It would be better, rather proper for the Speaker to ask the research wing to find out if at any point of time any member of the House had raised any question or made any mention over that Commission of Enquiry. If any member was dutifully vigilant to have bothered about this, the resultant outcome thereof might have been in the records of the Assembly. So an intensive research must be made in the Assembly itself over the issue.

If the fellows who boast of being MLAs had never bothered to know of what happened to the Judicial Commission of Enquiry that took so heavy a toll of the State Exchequer and administrative energy, and if the present stars fail to enlighten people as to what exactly has happened to that Enquiry Report and exemplary action is not taken against the culprits who have suppressed it so far as well as against the culprits that had caused the casualties, it would be a fraud played on the people if these fellows are pampered with ever rising pay packages and pension.

The way the Government has treated the Assembly leads one to apprehend that the authority of the august House over the Executive is in jeopardy. Its time, the Assembly understands this. Its time the members understand that in order to justify the pay and perks they are getting from the exchequer they must ensure that the rampart of democracy is not taken for granted by the Council of Ministers and Bureaucracy. They must assure the people that no-governance is not tenable.

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