NAVIN SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED TO FURTHER RUIN ORISSA

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

After Sachi Satpathy in ORISSA POLITICS exposed the massive corruption in execution of the Orissa Health Systems Development Project (OHSDP), as ascertained through Detailed Implementation Review (DIR) by the World Bank, the investor in this project, Secretary of Health, Government of Orissa, has admitted that a Minister of Navin Patnaik cabinet has been spotted to have demanded and taken bribe.

The exposure, almost confirming earlier audit objections, has concussed the discredited administration so much that bizarre shenanigans have been hitting the headlines. Shying at CBI enquiry, the Chief Minister constituted a three members high level investigation team with the Chief Secretary as its head to find out if corruption as claimed has really occurred. But he is such a CM that the team of Officers refused to proceed with the investigation! How could the Chief Secretary and his team dare to disobey the order of the CM is a conundrum. Only in two circumstances it could have happened. One, the three officers are so corrupt that they have no moral guts to expose the corruption practiced in the instant case; so they have declined. Two, the Chief Minister, off the records, has wanted them to decline so that he can proceed with a cover up exercise. It is intriguing that he has asked the vigilance wing of State Police that he controls as the portfolio holding Minister to conduct the enquiry.

At the same time, attempts have been initiated to divert public attention from corruption of Orissa functionaries to corruption of World Bank officials by marshalling posers as to why the Bank did not intervene in execution of the project when defects were first located!

Who of the borrower and the Banker could really be responsible for defects in execution of a project?

Orissa has borrowed money from the World Bank to improve her health services. If her projects are looted by her functionaries, who to blame? Her own Government or the World Bank?

It is wrong to assume that the Bank should have intervened in execution of the projects of Orissa.

It is Orissa Chief Minister’s basic responsibility to see that the borrowed money is appropriately utilized in the projects for which the loan has been obtained. If the borrowed money is swindled, it is he, who must be held responsible under the Rules of Business.

It is he (Mr. Navin Patnaik) who terminated the tenure of Dr. Kamala Das in the Health portfolio during the period in question; but he has not disclosed why did he do that. It is he (Mr. Navin Patnaik) who terminated the tenure of Minister of State, Health, Debi Prasad Mishra; but he has not disclosed as to why did he do that. It is he (Mr. Navin Patnaik) who wiped out the post of Minister of State, Health while jettisoning Mishra and appointing Prafulla Chandra Gadei on 6 August 2002 as the Cabinet Minister of Health & Family Welfare in sole charge of the department. After reassuming charge of office, it is he (Mr. Navin Patnaik) who preferred not to see Gadei as Health Minister again; but he has not disclosed the cause of change of his preference. He again kept the post of Minister of State, Health obliterated and appointed Bijayashree Rautray as the Cabinet Minister, vesting in him the entire portfolio. But after around two years, all on a sudden he terminated his tenure without disclosing as to why he had to drop him. So during the period covered by World Bank’s DIR, Navin Patnaik had to terminate all the persons who, at different times, were appointed as Cabinet Ministers or Ministers of State with Health portfolio keeping the reason thereof a total secret.

It is curious to note that in no other portfolio Navin has terminated so many incumbents during the relevant period.

The victims know the reason; but hankering after party tickets as they are and lest they fail to come clear of their respective share of the mud, they will not dare to disclose the reason from their side.

It is therefore Navin Patnaik’s responsibility to disclose the reason of why he had to terminate the tenures of so many Health Ministers and assist the general public in assessing who is how much responsible for sabotaging the OHSDP and pushing them further deep into the labyrinth of debt.

It looks ridiculous to castigate the World Bank on the ground that in spite of knowing through DIR that there was ongoing corruption in execution of the OHSDP, it did not intervene. It cannot be countenanced that World Bank uses DIR as an instrument to intervene in any execution of work undertaken by a State. The Bank is free to educate its own self on correctness of its reliance on a borrower so that it can avoid mistakes in financing in future; but it cannot be allowed to use its review results to intervene in execution of a project notwithstanding the same being dependant on its finance.

So instead of helping the wrongdoing government of Orissa to shift its responsibility to World Bank in the instant case, it would be proper to assess the role of Navin Patnaik in the ongoing misrule in Orissa, a small fraction of which has been exposed by Sriman Sachi Satpathy in matter of OHSDP.

However there is no dearth of people in the elite segment of Orissa to come to the rescue of this corrupt government as corruption creates for them a congenial climate. But, for people who love Orissa, there is no wrong in demanding resignation of Navin Patnaik.

The way he has terminated so many Health Ministers’ tenure during the concerned period by willful or mindless misuse of prerogative while nonchalantly sitting over his citadel under which the World Bank loan was being continuously looted is enough to suspect his involvement with the unveiled malfeasances. One, who has played havoc with the health of the people, should not continue as the Chief Minister.

He cannot be supported under the plea that he has ordered for enquiry into the matter. He has not made a reference for enquiry into his own role in this catastrophic corruption that has ruined OHSDP. He has not thought it prudent to follow the precedence R.N.Singhdeo, as Chief Minister, had established by subjecting himself to Judicial Enquiry that Justice Mudholkar had conducted on corruption. His action, in the instant case, is indicative of tactics to escape. It cannot be countenanced.

As the Chief Minister, in preferring an enquiry by a team of IAS Officers, whose tenure as Chief Executives in different departments are not without adverse audit remarks, and later, tailoring or tolerating their refusal to proceed with enquiry and silently transferring the burden to the vigilance wing of Orissa Police that he ministers, he has confirmed that he is running a government that has failed to know what has happened so far to a huge loan from the World Bank invested in the most urgent and clamant sector of Health.

If anything, it is a clear admission of non-governance and administrative anarchy that he has subjected our people to.

To help him continue as Chief Minister would be making a farce of democracy.

People like the elite persons who are his e-supporters having no connection with or concern for the commons may say that he cannot be held responsible for corruption practiced by individual ministers or bureaucrats or technocrats in the State. Therefore, let me site an instance that would show how reluctant he is to say no to practice of corruption in the department he personally handles notwithstanding this practice having been playing havoc with human health and life.

After an alarming numbers of Police personnel deployed to guard the Assembly in session died of Malaria due to mosquito bite, the Orissa Legislative Assembly made stipulations in the Municipal Corporation Act, 2003 putting a blatant ban on cow keeping within and around the limits of Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation.

There were by that time around 900 Milkmen who were running dairies in different parts of Bhubaneswar by establishing cowsheds on encroached prime plots. They rushed to Orissa High Court through their organization styled as Milk Producers Association, Orissa seeking nullification of the ban on cow keeping. The High Court rejected their plea. They went to the Supreme Court of India in Civil Appeal No. 940 of 2006. The Supreme Court upheld the High Court decision in its judgment delivered on February 2, 2006 and directed that the Orissa Government must evict the milkmen from the city and must not rehabilitate them anywhere within and around the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation area as cowsheds are the most menacing pollutants and threat to human health and life over and above being precipitators of the derailment of town planning.

The department of General Administration under direct control of Chief Minister Navin Patnaik played the villain and protected the milkmen in their lucrative business on prime plots encroached upon by them by willfully soughing over the victory that had come to it in the Supreme Court.

A brilliant scribe Bibhuti Mishra adjacent to whose residence a milkman has a big cowshed succumbed to continuous pollution followed by his equally brilliant wife Rubi, who succumbed to a metabolic disease that she had developed also due to pollution. By way of obituary we kept it on records that the government’s protection to illegal cowsheds has not only prematurely extinguished a couple that was famous for creativity and cultural activities but also has spread bronchial and metabolic disorders in the locality.

As Chief Minister Navin Patnaik pressed the State Exchequer to gain silence of various newspapers by patronizing them with profuse advertisements calling upon the public to cooperate with his government in malaria eradication, we thought it prudent to remind him of the necessity of eliminating the mosquito breeding centers spread all over the City by milkmen running illegal cowsheds by encroaching upon government plots. We thought it prudent to confront the functionaries in this article with hearsay information that about 20 lakhs of Rupees are being collected by officials as bribe every monthfrom around 2000 milkmen in return of protection given to them. We nurtured a hope against hope that the government would rise to the occasion, stop corruption, understand its own victory in the Supreme Court, honor its own Law (Act 11 of 2003), evict the milkmen and save the people from the menace of cowsheds. But that was never to be!

A highly respected son of Orissa, Sandip Dasverma, wrote personally to Navinbabu from USA annexing this article to his mail to him and urging upon him to honor the Law (Act 11 of 2003) enacted by his own government, fully endorsed as it has been by the Apex Judiciary and to save the people by evicting the milkmen.

But the only thing the government has done so far is raping its own Law i.e. Orissa Municipal Corporation Act, 2003 (Act 11 of 2003) as well as the Case Law created in its favor by the Supreme Court as reported at (2006) 3 Supreme Court Cases 229.

If the hearsay information we had published could have no base, the government would never have acted the way it has acted till date.

Eviction of marginal traders is going on in Bhubaneswar. Eviction of slum dwellers is also going on. But milkmen, on whose accommodation in and around the City of Bhubaneswar the Orissa Act 11 of 2003 as well as the Supreme Court verdict of February 2, 2006 has put a blatant ban, are never subjected to eviction.

Why? This very question prompts one to feel that the hearsay information of bribe is perhaps correct.

If it is correct, then it is a bribe of at least 20 lakhs of Rupees per month collected from about 2000 milkmen at the cost of hygiene and health of the inhabitants of Bhubaneswar and mutually shared amongst themselves by the very functionaries who have been sloughing over the Laws in this case.

This is happening in the department of General Administration of which the Chief Minister himself is the Minister.

Is he not morally bound to explain as to why he has allowed the Laws to be killed under his nose, if he personally is not involved in corruption?

If he can’t, why should one believe that he is not personally involved in other instances of loot of funds that is going on in Orissa under his regime?

And, then, will it be improper to say that he should not be allowed to further ruin our State?

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