LOOT OF ORISSA MINES: NAVIN SHOULD SUBJECT HIMSELF TO INQUIRY OR QUIT

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Chief Minister Navin Patnaik should subject himself to a Judicial Commission of Inquiry or quit over the discernible loot of Orissa Mines, a sample of which, estimated to be of Rs. 4,000 Crores money value, has come to limelight in course of Assembly debates.

The House was adjourned record 9 times on July 10 as the Opposition, on unveiling of the loot by the leader of BJP Legislative wing, K.V.Singhdeo, with convincing proof, consolidated its demand for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation. One is at a loss to understand why the Government is shying at the CBI. It is intriguing that the government is not willing to inquire into the matter even by a House committee.

The loot highlighted involves only a single spot in Keonjhar spanning 9 years. In other words, the loot is going on during last 9 years under Chief Ministership of Navin Patnaik.

And, who is allegedly the looter? A non-Oriya firm by name Ram Bahadur Thakur Ltd (RBTL).

Mines Minister Raghunath Mohanty’s assertion that there is no question of loot as the lease granted to RBTL over 96.568 Hectares in Rugudi, Rutukela and Katasahi under Joda Mines Circle (JMC) is lying idle due to non-availability of forest clearance certificate as yet, is a clear lie. A team of Legislators accompanied by eminent public figures has made a spot visit and has come out with evidences that the concerned land is under active manganese mining by RBTL. When the Opposition linked the 34 truckloads of manganese being smuggled out from JMC seized at Khurda recently to this illegal mining, the Minister admitted that the seized manganese was from JMC but refused to accept the Opposition allegation under a technical plea that the matter is subjudice under the High Court.

Had the Chief Minister no role in loot of Orissa mines, he could have reviewed the scenario in the light of the Supreme Court’s May 8 ban on mining in Aravalli hill range, which has been cited in these pages on May 15. But he has not wanted to educate himself with help of the well researched verdict of the Supreme Court in the matter of mining management sans any threat to eco-system of the State. He wants us to suspect that ministers and functionaries might have made any mistake, not he.

Is it not the time for him to appreciate that if he does not take action against the minister (s), present and past, in charge of mines in his cabinet and subject the Secretary (Secretaries) and Director (s), present and past, of Mines to discernible disciplinary action readily and in retrospect, peoples will have no doubt that it is he, who is the culprit?

I do not know how can he erase the public suspicion that looters of Orissa Mines have his patronization.

He alone knows whether or not he is guilty of this treachery against the State. To erase the public suspicion, he should instantly appoint a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate into all the mining by looters or leaseholders during his regime to find out if, as the Chief Minister, he has any reason to be blamed for that.

PRECEDENCE

Orissa has a brilliant and unique precedence of a Chief Minister having subjected himself to a Commission of Inquiry. Let us look at that.

When Biju Patnaik was the Chief Minister of Orissa, he had infested the administration with so much corruption that it was unbearable on part of the peoples to tolerate him.

As public agitation against his continuance in office could not be suppressed, he had to resign. But the Congress Government in the Center shielded him through a Cabinet Sub-Committee despite CBI having concluded that he was prima facie guilty of corrupt practices.

With such a finding of CBI, a Judicial Commission of Inquiry was a must under the Central Government Circular then in force.

But the Congress party being in power at the Center, had tried to protect Biju from Law by preferring a review of the CBI report through a Cabinet Sub-Committee. Biju having resigned from CM post in 1963 to escape public wrath had somewhat stayed in the power corridor by grabbing Chairmanship of the State Planning Board. He was made to resign from this position on 29 January 1965. And, the Cabinet Sub-Committee that had members gained over by Biju tried to save him by refusing to recommend for a Judicial Commission of Inquiry despite the CBI findings. Through Atulya Ghosh, he had pressurized Prime Minister Shastri so much that two days after his resignation, he had to urge upon the Loksabha to ignore the Biju scandal. “Sri Biren Mitra and Sri Patnaik have already tendered their resignations. I would appeal to you that this matter be allowed to end there”, Shastri had requested the Loksabha.

Massive majority of Congress in the Loksabha was thus used to protect Biju. But when for this very reason of protecting the corrupt Biju Patnaik, the peoples of Orissa rejected the Congress in 1967 General Elections and a non-Congress Government under R.N.Singhdeo took over, the immediate work of the new Government was to appoint a Judicial Commission of Inquiry with Justice H.R.Khanna in the chair to inquire into corruption alleged against Biju and his associates.

Justice Khanna observed that it was quite deplorable that Patnaik should have “ allowed such a sway to the pecuniary and business interest of the companies, which had been started by him and with which his family members were associated in dealing with the State Government, that within two or three years of his stewardship his public image became tarnished and the hopes which were built around him were shattered to pieces. Memorials and representations, some of them not without substance, were submitted against him. The architect of party victory in 1961 lost even his own election in 1967. The fall of Sri Patnaik was not merely a loss for himself, it was a shock and disenchantment for the people who had pinned their hopes and reposed their confidence in him and with that had linked the future of Orissa”.

However, as the Singhdeo Government was setting up the Khanna Commission against Biju and his acolytes that ruled over Orissa from 1961 to 1967, Sadasiv Tripathy by then reduced from the CM position to leader of Opposition, had demanded that there should be inquiry into conduct of Harekrishna Mahtab and R.N.Singhdeo, whose role as CM and Deputy CM respectively in an earlier coalition of Congress and Ganatantra Parisad was not above board.

Confronted with this by the then Union Home Minister Y.B.Chavan, Singhdeo replied that though he does not find any prima facie substance in any of Tripaty’s allegations, in interest of integrity in public life, the matter may be examined by a person of top judicial standing.

Chavan wrote back to Singhdeo that he should dispose off the matter as prudence entails.

Singhdeo appointed Justice J.R.Mudholkar, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, though off the Commission of Inquiry Act, to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the allegations raised by Tripathy.

This was in fact a Commission of Inquiry to find out prima facie substance, if any, in allegations against persons holding ministerial office in Orissa during the period from 1948 to 1961 that included also R.N.Singhdeo himself, as he was Deputy CM in Congress-GP coalition ministry. In other words, Singhdeo had appointed this Commission against himself in order to ensure that in a democracy there should be no room for any doubt over the conduct of the CM or any minister.

In mining matters, Navin Patnaik Government has earned so much suspicion that it is better for him to come out from the room of doubt as expeditiously as possible. The instant event that has forced the Assembly into as many as 9 adjournments on July 10 is a fit case to remind him of the precedence created by Singhdeo.

It is proper for him to subject himself to a Judicial Commission of Inquiry or else to quit his position before preferring any agency other than judiciary to conduct any inquiry into loot of the mines so that the same could seem to be free of his direct influence.

Anything less would further harm the State.

GOVERNMENT CASTIGATED BY RULING PARTY HEAVYWEIGHT IN ORISSA ASSEMBLY

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Navin Patnaik led Government’s continuous negligence to the farmers forced his party heavyweight Pradip Maharathy on July 9 to cry out in the Assembly that if the administration does not change its modus operandi, agriculture may not remain the principal avocation of Orissa’s majority after 15 years.

Pointing out where does the government err, Maharathy said that Officers are not being made to appreciate the applicability of the State’s agriculture policy. To encourage use of tractors for agro purpose the government grants subsidy on records. But in reality officials grab the subsidy money in lieu of keeping their eyes closed to use of the tractors in non-agricultural works.

Agriculture officers, even the faculties of Agriculture University, who are duty bound to interact with cultivators and equip them with technical know-how for better productivity are not doing that and yet enjoying immunity, he roared.

Dwelling on how Orissa markets are occupied entirely with highly contaminated fish from Andhra, Maharathy alleged that kickbacks have become so essential in kick starting official action that an Andhra body has taken away 432 Acres of Kausalyaganga to the total detriment of Orissa interest.

Criticizing Navin’s last phase of administration for the folly in deploying village level agricultural workers from the Agriculture Department to the Pachayatiraj Department, Maharathy disapproved the arrangement and demanded immediate reversal thereof.

To him, the conduct of the government is anti-agriculture. When old age pension scheme is available for many, the government has not included therein the old agriculturists. On the other hand, poor farmers from whom the government had procured seeds are perishing in running from pillar to post to get their dues. The government has not yet paid Rs.18 crores due to the farmers against cost of seeds that the officials had collected from them, he pointed out.

In initiating debate on the debate on demand for agriculture Congress member Santos Singh Saluja had alleged that the department of agriculture looks like rudderless. It is a confused department manned and controlled by persons sans any commitment to agriculture and any understanding of affairs of cultivators. When electrical demand in Orissa is continuously rising, energy use in agriculture has been in continuous decline, he said, suggesting that due to lack of interest and commitment in official level, farmers are kept away from advance technology.

Amongst others, Leader of Opposition Bhupindar Singh and members Pravatranjan Biswal, Bhagirathi badajena, Devraj Mohanty, Niranjan Pradhan, Pratap Sarangi, Amar Satpathy etc expressed their views on justification of the demand.

Orissa Threatened With Power Famine

QUESTIONS NOT ANSWERED TO: CREDIBILITY OF ASSEMBLY CRIPPLED

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Leader of Opposition Bhupindar Singh asked the Speaker on July 9 to ensure that the executive does not escape by using obliging ministers in hoodwinking the House under set terms of evasion. The term “Data under collection” is often used to evade answering to questions put by members in Orissa Legislative Assembly.

Veteran member Amar Prasad Satapathy had put a simple question seeking the number of lower schoolteachers that have retired within last five years. He is a former minister and a member of NCP that sides with BJD in Orissa. He had put the question before clear two weeks as required under the Rules. To his dismay, “Data under Collection” was the answer. Satpathy raised the issue in the Zero hour and expressed deep anguish over the Minister’s stark inability to steer his department into the simple question. The answer was absolutely evasive and reflected the reluctance of bureaucracy to answer to questions raised by members in the Assembly. This cripples the credibility of the house, he said.

Members Anup Sai and Pratap Sarangi came down heavily on the Government for the evasive techniques habitually adopted.

Senior leader of the ruling BJD, Dr. Nrusingh Sahu also expressed similar concern as he reprimanded the government for collaborating with the recalcitrant officialdom in habitual misleading of the Assembly. “Data under collection” is the common answer to almost all the important questions asked by members. He said that this farce should stop and the executive must be made answerable to the Assembly.

Speaker directed the Parliamentary Affairs Minister to ensure that questions are promptly and properly answered by the Government even as he reserved the ruling.

ASSEMBLY ABRADED AS SUPPRESSION OF FACTS BECOMES MANTRA OF RULERS OF THE DAY

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Scheduled business in Orissa Legislative Assembly was abraded on July 7 as the Speaker had to adjourn the House twice over Opposition demand for an inquiry by a House Committee into the assault on democracy involving Ramesh Raut, MLA from Athgarh.

The controversial MLA is not a crossbencher. He was officially adopted by BJD during electioneering and hence very much a part of the treasury benches. So the treasury benches cannot but be responsible for his conduct as a member of the House.

After becoming a member of the House consequence upon oath taking, he squandered away time till 19th June and signing on that day a resignation letter allegedly on dotted lines, he handed over the same to the newly elected Speaker at his residence in the company of BJD hoodlums on June 20.

Undisclosed sources informed a section of selected media after a couple of days that though forced to submit resignation letter, Raut has promptly informed the Speaker that he would withdraw the same.

The Speaker maintained that he had not received any such communication even as no action was taken by him on the resignation letter.

Raut went underground causing rambling rumors that his life was in danger. Selected media persons were made to meet his wife in her parents’ place to carry stories of how she and her children were brought over there by the MLA to preempt danger to their lives.

Police teams were pressed to fetch him from his hideout and his father had to file FIR in Police airing his tearful fears over his son’s safety.

R.P.Swain, politically butchered by BJD with a fake ticket, was cautiously focused as the mastermind behind Raut’s resignation as that would pave the way for his return to the Assembly.

Attempts to destroy Swain’s public image were rampant inasmuch as the peoples were being fed with speculations that Raut was kept under arrest by the former where he was to stay till his resignation was accepted.

The Speaker added force to the gravity of the case by issuing summons to Raut warranting his presence to place his version on the ongoing controversy over his resignation and when he appeared before him in response to the summon, Police went wild in whisking him away from the Speaker’s chamber.

To the Press the Speaker however told that from Raut’s averments he got the impression that Swain had crafted the resignation letter that no more was in force, as the member has preferred to withdraw the same.

But surprisingly, at the official guesthouse, where the Police had kept him under guards, he told the media that Swain was never involved with his resignation. He made it clear that Swain never kept him under arrest and that the FIR filed by his father was based on misconception.

Swain has also emphatically stated that neither he not his supporters have ever put any pressure on Raut to resign.

Who then had made him resign and eventually withdraw the same in absence of acceptance thereof by the Speaker?

Where then had he really stayed during the intervening period when media was hinting at Swain to have kept him arrested in some secret den?

Why the Chief Minister, who as BJD boss had adopted him as his party candidate and invested his party funds for his victory, was silent on his resignation and disappearance for the entire period, even though Raut was already on records to have revealed that he had to resign by signing on dotted lines under pressure of BJD stalwarts?

The peoples of Orissa deserve unambiguous answers to these questions. Naturally therefore the Opposition wanted the Assembly to locate the truth.

A member’s resignation under unauthorized pressure is certainly indicative of severe assault on democracy.

It should have been proper for the Chief minister to place details of the sordid development by way of a statement in the House while invoking collective wisdom of members to ensure non-recurrence of such assault on democracy. As he did not volunteered a statement, the Opposition stressed on constitution of a House Committee to inquire into the matter and to suggest remedial measure. But this did not happen. On the other hand, Raut made a statement that was different from what he had stated before the Speaker in his chamber. Either of his statements is vitiated with the mischief of disrespect for the House.

The Congress members expressed deep concern over deterioration of democratic dignity and insisted upon formation of a House Committee to investigate into the matter. But the treasury side opposed. The House was successively adjourned twice under pandemonium to no benefit of democracy as suppression of facts emerged as the Mantra of the rulers of the day.

ASSEMBLY SHOULD RISE TO CULTIVATE PEOPLES’ CONFIDENCE

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

From an Operation Table at Bhubaneswar to All India Institute of Medical Sciences at New Delhi to yet another Operation Table at my workplace city, the time was so tedious and tiring that I had decided to take another week to return to my desk. But let us forget that.

Orissa Legislative Assembly is going to resume its session today. It should rise to restore democracy’s dignity and to cultivate peoples’ confidence in the system of rule by representatives.

Chief Minister Navin Patnaik should, on his own but official accord, make a statement in the House detailing every facet of the political farce that his party BJD has forced the peoples of Orissa to watch during the intervening period.

Ramesh Raut of Athgarh, an independent candidate adopted by BJD when electioneering for the Assembly was in full swing, had resigned without stating any reason and has withdrawn the resignation in reaction to intervening developments that has exposed how democracy has been derailed in Orissa by vested interest politicians in power that Navin Patnaik heads.

As representative, Raut has replaced Ranendra Pratap Swain, who, as BJD candidate, had failed to pass the scrutiny test on the table of the Returning Officer as the BJD ticket submitted in his support was allegedly not genuine.

Navin as party chief has neither claimed that the party ticket was genuine nor has taken any action against whosoever had submitted the controversial ticket knowing the same to be not genuine. But to the bafflement of peoples of Athgarh he and his super shadow Pyari Mohan Mohapatra had taken up electioneering in support of Raut projecting him as the adopted candidate of BJD. A confused Swain had also to campaign for Raut, who, as a contesting candidate, had no confidence that he would win.

When the results came out and Raut was declared the winner, majority of Athgarh voters knew that they were defeated; because they had never voted for Raut. Manipulation of Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) by lobbyists of American interest through expert miscreants helped Raut to win the way BJD in Orissa and Congress in the Center are suspected to have won, some say.

Congress leaders of Orissa know that the present Government is an outcome of EVM manipulation. But they are not in a position to say this resolutely as thereby their own party may be disadvantaged.

By the time of elections, Navin Patnaik has forfeited so much credibility that even the BJD General Secretary Dr. Damodar Raut in his journal “Sanchar” had highlighted how soiled had become the “Belgium Glass” meaning Navin’s clean face!

Demoralization had crippled the Government so much that it was seen shying at the Assembly and evading the House.

Goons donning attires of power positions were looting every welfare project, ample instances of which were gushing out of sample audits by the Comptroller and Auditor General.

Apolitical organizations including the World Health Organization were showing how public money was being swindled sans qualms as Navinraj was providing the swindlers with the environment they needed.

Occasions were there when even the Supreme Court had to strip the Navinraj layer by layer in cases of its imprudent patronization to mines-mongers.

Peoples were eating stones to thrive a while even as mothers were distress-selling babies, girls were distress-selling bodies, farmers were distress-selling paddies, workers were becoming bonded and distress-selling labor, self-employed cultivators were getting displaced as Navinraj’s priority was put on private industrial projects.

Majority of the peoples in Orissa were in unbearable distress and were just waiting to avenge all the humiliation and harassment Navinraj had put them to.

It is therefore next to impossible to accept that this tortured majority voted for Navin to form the government again.

How then the BJD grabbed majority berths in Orissa?

A genuine impartial commission of inquiry can find out the truth.

But those who did not vote for BJD believe that the party grabbed the berths through manipulation of EVMs.

The congress that belittled Indian democracy by allying with President Bush, as he then was, of USA in the matter of nuke deal as well as non-alignment and in anti-constitutional partnership with the unscrupulous private trade and industry, had no chance of electoral victory as majority of Indian voters is still not devoid of patriotism. How then it emerged as the single largest berth grabber in the Loksabha?

Majority of Indians suspect that EVM manipulation played the tricks.

Exposures in global media make one understand that Americans have quite a number of expert EVM manipulators. A study conducted by Princeton University researchers had stated that New Jersey’s electronic voting system could be easily hacked about seven minutes and researchers were sure in the report that this exploit could be practically undetectable. Numerous studies have shown that it would be easy to introduce malicious software into e-voting machines and sway an election. According to the findings of a 2007 top-to-bottom review of the voting systems in California, electronic voting machines are not secure. After finding a number of security vulnerabilities in all of the e-voting machines analyzed, Secretary of State Debra Bowen had significantly restricted the use of such systems in the state, limiting them to one per polling place, only to be used by handicapped persons.

So, in USA, expertise has grown to hack EVMs to hijack elections and the administration there has marked it.

In India, the EVMs were also marked for vulnerability to manipulations and when some such instances of manipulations transpired, on specific allegations, the Election Commission had, on December 19, 2005, appointed a committee headed by Prof P V Indersen to find out if results in EVM could be manipulated and the committee in it’s report submitted in September 2006 had confirmed that manipulation was possible and had therefore suggested some measures to check hijacking of elections through EVM.

But the Central Government did not implement the suggestions.

This being the position, Congress in the Center as well as BJD in Orissa that have surprised the voters with unexpected success in fetching berths are being looked at askance even as no agency has exposed this aspect specifically so far.

Lack of exposure by any agency confirms that there is no rivalry amongst manipulation agencies in this matter. This precipitates apprehensions that a single agency, howsoever unseen it be, had engaged EVM manipulators to organize electoral victory for both the Congress and the BJD.

Both these parties, though seemingly political opponents, are of similar inner character. When Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi of the Congress are known for their pro-USA economic stances, Navin of BJD is known as the patron of POSCO that the world looks at in the rays of America.

So there is no reason not to apprehend that lobbyists of American interest to whom power in hands of Manmohan and Navin at New Delhi and Orissa respectively would look more desirable, have no role in their electoral victory through EVM manipulation.

If they have done it, they have done it in such a manner that the dull minds may not mark the mischief.

This mischief might have specifically been employed at Athgarh.

The peoples of this constituency comprising the two famous ex-States namely Athgarh and Tigiria are the peoples whom legendary freedom fighter and revolutionary Braja Kishore Pattanayak was eager to represent in the Assembly. They are the peoples who are marked for having sent to the Assembly some of Orissa’s political top brass of their time such as Radhanath Rath, Pabitra Mohan Pradhan and Janaki Ballav Pattanaik, who were proud to have represented these peoples. Raut was never known to them as a political person having even an iota of political potency. He was not known to have any education, experience and / or ability to play any noteworthy role in law making and making the government function and remain answerable. Why at all should the same peoples have found in him the stuff fit enough to represent them in the Assembly and, that too, by rejecting experienced and capable stalwarts!

A former member of Rajyasabha as well as a former Chief Engineer of Works, each at his level having enough parliamentary and executive experiences were in the fray besides a BJP candidate in this 99 plus percent Hindu dominated constituency.

In this constituency there was no possibility of a man like Raut bagging victory. If here only Raut could win that should make it clear that peoples’ confidence in Navin was so solid that a political nongrata planted by him as an adopted candidate could vanquish heavyweight rivals. That may wipe out doubts, if any, over the unexpected massive victory of BJD.

This is how Raut represents Athgarh. But shenanigans following his victory in the election are such that peoples’ confidence in democracy has been affected more severely than that by suspected EVM manipulation.

Raut on 20th June handed over his single-sentence resignation letter to the Assembly Speaker at Bhubaneswar in total disregard to whatever votes he might have got under Navin’s dazzling publicity blitzkrieg and vanished into underground. Even as media made speculations that he was shanghaied into Swain’s secret den wherefrom his release was not possible before acceptance of his resignation, news spread that he had expressed in writing to withdraw his resignation. Police search parties were pressed on him and even as his family continued to air apprehensions on his life and the Speaker had to issue a summon on him warranting his appearance by 5th July, he surfaced on 4 July 2009 to confirm to the Speaker in his official chamber his withdrawal of resignation and to say that he wants to continue as a member.

By then the political environment of Orissa was already under stench that the shocking silence of the Chief Minister over disappearance of his adopted winner from Athgarh was emitting.

It was emerging that Swain was subjected to a well planned jettisoning by Navin as he was a man who despite being in the treasury bench had no hesitation in castigating the administration in the floor of the Assembly for the marked instances of misrule. He was deliberately not provided with the ticket till the last day of filing of nomination. Selected BJD supporters who filed the nomination papers projecting Swain as the party candidate did not file a genuine ticket. The party boss did not convey to the Returning Officer that Swain was the candidate of BJD. As the nomination papers were rejected, BJD did not raise objections against that; but Raut was readily adopted. Even as Swain has been fighting a case against alleged illegality in rejection of his nomination, Navin kept mum over the resignation and disappearance of Raut in a manner that helped spreading speculations projecting Swain as the villain. The Speaker personally had received the resignation. The way time elapsed without any discernible action at his end, peoples started suspecting that he was perhaps under pressure not to accept the same.

Both the august offices of the CM and the Speaker are lowered in public esteem in this matter. The way BJD’s adopted member has played havoc with democratic dignity is so baffling that Navin who enjoys to be described as the Supremo of his party should explain as to why he had found Raut qualified for his party support and why the votes of Athgarh should not be subjected to public audit to prove that public support to him in Orissa is so real that a man like Raut could win on his goodwill. Another aspect of this sordid drama is that Raut has revealed that Swain through his goons has been insisting that he should refund him the amount of Rs. Two crores that he had invested in his election with the hope that he would vacate the seat for him soon after results were declared. There should be an inquiry to ascertain the truth in this averment as it indicates the bribe given to voters, whosoever besides EVM manipulation if any had voted for Raut.

There should be no doubt over how this event has drastically damaged peoples’ confidence in applied democracy in Orissa. The Assembly should rise to restore peoples’ confidence in right earnest as otherwise the set of members that are supposed to steer the State for next five years may be viewed as enemies of democracy for all times to come.

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