Supreme Court Of India Should Act KR Pura In Matter Of Athgarh

“We are of the opinion that when a nomination paper is presented it is a bounden duty of the Returning Officer to receive the nomination, peruse it, point out the defects, if any, and allow candidates to rectify the defects and when the defects are not removed then alone the question of rejection of nomination would arise,” the Supreme Court of India has ruled in the matter of a case pertaining to rejection of a candidate’s nomination in RK Pura Assembly constituency of Karnataka in 2008 by the RO in 2008.

Kavitha Mahesh, a candidate, whose nomination was rejected by the RO, not at the time of receiving, but on the day of scrutiny for publication of final list of candidates, facilitating election of Nandiesha Reddy in absence of proper contest, had moved the Karnataka High Court for nullification of the said election on ground of illegal rejection of her papers. That was challenged by Reddy in the Apex Court.

In dismissing Reddy’s appeal, a bench of Justice H.S.Bedi and Justice C.K.Prasad of the Supreme Court has held, “Any other view, in our opinion, will lead to grave
consequences and the Returning Officers may start refusing to accept the nomination at the threshold which may ensure victory to a particular candidate at the election”.

This exact point I have repeatedly discussed in these pages in the matter of rejection of nomination of Ranendra Pratap Swain by the RO in Athgarh constituency.

The observation and ruling of the Supreme Court in RK Pura matter applies entirely to the case of Athgarh pending before it.

The Returning Officer has butchered democracy in Athgarh and that needs to get back life. The Orissa High Court has declared the election of the ruling party’s adopted candidate null and void. But the Supreme Court is yet to deliver its verdict as the case has, through special leave , landed before it.

Democracy cries to get back life in Athgarh. The Supreme Court should not make any delay as revival of democracy should never be delayed.

The issue has been answered by the Supreme Court in RK Pura matter. It should be applied to the Athgarh case as the issue is exactly the same.

Athgarh MLA’s Source of Litigation Fund Needs Be Probed Into

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Athgarh MLA Ramesh Raut is using dilatory tactics in the Supreme Court to keep obstructed the citizens’ right to elect the candidate of their choice in that constituency.

He was elected from Athgarh constituency to Orissa Legislative Assembly in general elections, 2009, only because the Returning Officer (RO) misused his powers to reject, in discernibly illegal manner, the correctly submitted nomination papers of the sitting and by then the most popular candidate, Ranendra Pratap Swain.

Orissa High Court has declared the election null and void, as to it, the conduct of the RO in rejecting Swain’s nomination papers was blatantly illegal.

Raut has challenged the High Court Order in the Supreme Court; but curiously, has been using dilatory tactics though his lawyers are top ranking lawyers of India such as F. S. Nariman, Harish Salve, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Pallav Shisodia and Soli Sorabjee.

Raut hails from a very poor family of Athargh; has no known education beyond the primary school level and was a mere page in Swain’s office before filing his papers and hence it can never be accepted that the Returning Officer, who, as Sub-Collector, was the highest administrative officer of the Sub-Division, acted under his influence to remove Swain, a former minister and a political heavyweight, from the list of contesting candidates.

The RO’s daredevilry in writing off Swain from the list of candidates was obviously meant to oblige a secret villain, who the State is yet to identify.

Whether in course of the case the Supreme Court would look at the issue I have raised in this matter in these pages, I cannot say.

But I have shown that the Athgarh RO’s conduct should be viewed as an experimentation on how a Prime Ministerial Candidate, when time comes, could be eliminated from electoral fray by gaining over the RO of his constituency.

If any secret villain was in search of an opportunity to derail Indian democracy by gaining over the ROs, then it can be safely said that Athgarh has written for that person or body of persons the success story.

Yes, the RO can keep any candidate out of fray by rejecting his /her nomination papers, howsoever arbitrarily that be, because the election laws have given the said officer the carte blanche to reject the nomination papers of any candidate notwithstanding the fact that it is possible on part of the same officer to tamper with the papers of the targeted candidate lying for days in his / her custody to create a cause for rejection thereof, as has happened in Athgarh.

If any enemy nation can gain over the ROs or majority of them, which in this country of bureaucratic corruption as well as of the cash-for-question-and-cash-for-confidence-vote-parliament is not at all impossible, democracy can be derailed by playing the tricks with candidates capable of forming government(s) after the elections.

The Athgarh case has proved that election cases raised against wrongful rejection of nomination papers by the RO may take many years to end. And, nobody can say for sure that such cases would end before another election takes place. Thus, by using a RO, any villain can keep any popular and befitting candidate out of legislative houses for an entire term.

Therefore I had argued in my previous article on Athgarh that the carte blanche given to the RO in rejection of nomination papers be done away with by immediate creation of an appellate layer above the said officer, with stipulation that if any aggrieved candidate demands, the final list of candidates in his / her constituency cannot be notified till orders in the appeal against rejection of nomination papers are pronounced.

Even as I insist that it should be proper for the Supreme Court to cogitate upon this issue while hearing the Athgarh case, it would not be out of context to suggest that the Athgarh MLA’s source of finance in defraying the cost of litigation in the Supreme Court needs be probed into.

Lawyers: F. S. Nariman, Harish Salve, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Pallav Shisodia and Soli Sorabjee that are working for Raut in the Supreme Court belong to the costliest layer of lawyers in the country. Raut does not come from a financial background strong enough to shoulder their fees. Neither his known source of income can defray the expenses. So who is funding him?

Unless he discloses the name of his financier, it can be safely assumed that somebody working secretly against Indian democracy, who used the Athgarh constituency as a laboratory to test if a RO could be successfully used to derail elections, is certainly ghost-paying the lawyers for Raut or paying them through Raut.

In the best interest of democracy, therefore, it is imperative that the details of the person or body of persons who is financing the Athgarh MLA in his case before the Supreme Court and the motive behind such financing be probed into immediately.

If the authorities in power have any dedication to democracy, one may hope that this suggestion would be taken into cognizance.

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.

BIRTH MONTH OF ORISSA WILL GIVE BIRTH TO THE NEXT GOVERNMENT

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

On April 1, the incumbent Government will have its last chance to celebrate with the peoples of the State the birthday of modern Orissa.

Elections to Orissa Legislative Assembly, which would form the next Government, will commence on April 16. Synchronized with Loksabha polls, the voting would be complete with the next phase taking place on April 23, according to notification issued yesterday by the Election Commission of India.

On Apri 16, peoples of Orissa shall express their preference for candidates in 10 out of 21 Loksabha constituencies namely Bargarh, Sundergarh, Sambalpur, Bolangir, Kalahandi, Nawarangpur, Kandhamal, Aska, Berhampur and Koraput while choosing MLAs simultaneously in 70 of Orissa’s 147 Assembly constituencies coming within their respective limits. On the 2nd leg on April 23, the rest 11 Loksabha Constituencies namely Keonjhar, Mayurbhanj, Balasore, Bhadrak, Jajpur, Dhenkanal, Cuttack, Kendrapara, Jagatsinghpur, Puri and Bbhubaneswar will take votes along with the rest 77 Assembly constituencies comprising their areas.

The District Collectors would act as Returning Officers in all but the Berhampur Loksabha segment where the responsibility is vested upon the Project Director of D.R.D.A., Ganjam.

From now up to March 30, political parties will find time to finalize their candidates for the first phase and up to April 4 for the second phase. Nomination papers would be scrutinized on March 31 and April 6 respectively. Withdrawal of nomination papers is set to April 2 and 8 on which dates the final list of candidates would be placed officially before the voters for their verdict on April 16 and 23 respectively..

So the month of April will virtually give birth to the next government of Orissa allowing the EC to incubate upon it till May 16 when counting would unveil the voters’ choice.

How the peoples shall react to members of the present ministry may then be discernible, but with yesterday’s notification the EC has clipped their wings. They cannot use their blazing status symbol – the red-light vehicles and cannot call the State officials to their respective residences or office chambers. They cannot lunch any official program. They cannot unveil any plaque with their names engraved thereon, which, so far, they had been doing at the cost of the state exchequer.

ORISSA ASSEMBLY TERMINATES SESSION IN SUSPECTED DESIGN TO SHIELD TAINTED MINISTER

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

After Ms. Pramila Mallik, Minister for Women and Child Development was dragged into debate over allegation that she had demanded and received bribe in advance for putting the employees of the office of State Women Commission (SWC) in regular scale of salary and after the Speaker directed the Minister to place her version in the House the next day and the government to find out and report if the allegation was true, the Government has all on a sudden used its advantage of majority in the House to end the session of Orissa Legislative Assembly eight days ahead of its schedule. The session was scheduled to continue till 31st December. And the House was to transact so much business that important Bills had been adopted through guillotine to avoid possible paucity of time. Hence, the government stand to abruptly terminate the session for want of business looks flimsy.

The SWC employees, comprising 36 persons in all categories, are not getting their salaries in regular rates for which they have been making their representations for years. Ms. Mallik being their Minister had allegedly demanded a bribe worth Rs.5 lakhs to allow regular pay scales to them. The poor employees were even made to cough up Rs. 50,000/- in advance. This is how a section of the media has carried the version of the concerned employees.

On 19th December, Congress member Lalatendu Bidyadhar Mohapatra had made a special mention of this exposure during the zero hour driving the House into frenzy.

As the Opposition insisted that the Chief Minister be made to make a statement, the Speaker had observed that as Rules permit the Government 48 hours to respond to the issue raised through special mentions, they should wait till then.

Dwelling on the subject through a point of order Opposition Chief Whip Satyabhusan Sahoo wanted to know from the CM as to what steps he has taken after his cabinet colleague was exposed in mainstream media over such unprecedented ugly instance of seeking and taking bribe from a segment of government employees to fit them into regular scale of pay.

As the CM did not come forward with any answer, gnawing pandemonium hurled down adjournment after adjournments till the Speaker, accepting Opposition views that the matter was too serious to be ignored, issued directions to the Government in the afternoon to enquire into the matter immediately.

Ms. Mallik in a statement told the House on 20th December that the allegation raised against her was blatantly baseless. She has neither demanded any bribe nor has ever taken a part thereof in advance to allow fitment of the SWC employees into regular scale of pay she maintained.

Before her statement was perused, the Vedanta University Bill was taken up. Deputy Leader of Opposition attacked it as a controversial Bill spangled entirely with defects deliberately sculptured on its body to defeat State interest and coined voluminously in order to dissuade proper application of probing mind on its mischiefs within a short time and demanded that consideration on the Bill be deferred to allow Lawmakers enough time to study it in-depth before proceeding with the business it warrants. Lawmakers across party lines were almost of the same opinion that remained unchanged even in respect to the other Bill coined on Sri University. Sensing the attitude of the House, both the Bills were deferred. But before the House was on its normal track, a treasury bench member Arun Sahu, known as a member of CM’s inner circle, suggested that the two Bills being deferred, the House should end the session, as there was no business left. Congress heavyweight Nalini Mohanty read in it a conspiracy to stop Opposition induced resolutions and other legitimate businesses. But a motion by the Government Chief Whip to end the session was adopted by voice vote and the Speaker went ahead to close the session.

It may be that the present Assembly will have no new session. Its normal life is at the fag ends. So the House will have no opportunity to appropriately finish the issues it had brought into Assembly records including the bribe issue and breach of privilege allegations against the CM, Navin Patnaik and Cooperation Minister Ms. Surama Padhi.

Deputy Leader of Opposition Mr. Narasingha Mishra had based his privilege notice against Mr. Patnaik on the latter’s willful sleeping over the Commission of Inquiry Report on Ganjam hooch tragedy when the privilege notice served by Shambhu Nayak and Padmalochan Panda against Ms. Padhi was based on her discernible attempt to mislead the House in the massive scam spotted in Bhubaneswar Urban House Building Cooperative Society. The Speaker had assured to do the needful after examination of the notices at his end. But now, with the abrupt termination of the session, most probably that would not happen and the Members will not be able to take stock of the breach of privilege in both these cases.

On the other hand, the ugly offence Ms. Mallik has allegedly committed could not be taken stock of as appropriately as it should have been had the House not ended its session so suddenly. She, in her statement, has given such information that gives glimpses of environment congenial to corruption that exists in the office of the Minister.

The day the matter was raised in the House, she had told the media that she has instructed the Department to find out if anybody has used her name in collection of bribe. This means, she does not entirely rule out the possibility of bribe money collection from the concerned employees.

On the other hand, member Damodar Raut of Basanti Bara fame, who is also the Secretary General of BJD, in expressing solidarity with Ms. Mallik had immediately tried to intimidate the affected employees apparently in a bid to drag them into silence over the bribe allegation. He had used the Etv channel to transmit the alarming message to them that if they confirm to have given bribe worth Rs. 50,000/- to Ms. Mallik in advance against her demand for Rs.5 lakhs, they must first be booked for giving bribe.

Modus operandi of Mr. Raut in trying to intimidate the employees into silence, if designed to protect Ms. Mallik, was perhaps present in a different form in crafting abrupt closure of the session after she presented her statement in the House.

Ms. Mallik’s statement was full of so many gaps that through them anybody can find how delay was deliberate in processing the proposal for fitment of the employees into regular scale of pay.

As for example, she has said that the proposal to put 33 employees of SWC in regular scale of pay was received from the SWC by her department on 08 November 2006. No action was taken on that. The SWC repeated the proposal after more than seven months adding three more names to the previous list of 33 employees and her office received the same on 17 May 2007. She has told that now orders are issued for their fitment in regular scales of pay. She has not told the date of the issued order.

The House in order to monitor the matter arising out of bribe charge leveled by the employees of SWC against the Minister could have tried to know the real reason of such inordinate delay in disposal of the concerned file had the Assembly session not abruptly died

How else than designed the phenomenon could be apprehended?

OF MINISTERS OF ORISSA AND THEIR OFFICES GRABBED BY EXTRA OFFICIAL ELEMENTS

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

If the Ministry is answerable to the Assembly, Orissa Assembly has miserably failed to monitor the Ministers.

It is the Speaker who has on many occasions expressed dismay over failure of Ministers in giving acceptable answers to queries from the Members. He has gone up to instructing Ministers to come with the proper reply within a time stipulated by him. This speaks volume of how the Ministers have tried to evade time and again.

It is not that this odd has crippled the Assembly entirely. Some of the astute Members have sometimes succeeded in making Ministers vomit how administration has failed in their respective departments. But it is marked, whenever this happens, the Ministers usually shift the responsibility for the admitted failures to the bureaucracy that according to them is too recalcitrant to execute programs properly. As for example after stark failure in using the available funds earmarked for welfare of Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes and Backward Classes was established by facts and figures in course of an adjournment motion on 18th December, Welfare Minister Chaitanya Prasad Majhi has attributed this failure to the bureaucracy.

But what the Ministers themselves are doing?

Almost all the Secretaries are disgusted that Ministers are making inordinate delays in disposing of files at their level irrespective of how urgent they are. In most cases, delay is deliberate and extraneous consideration is the suspected cause.

Extra Official Elements (EOE) in fact control the offices of several Ministers.

Under the Rules of Business, a Private Secretary (PS) is the officer, who peruses the files endorsed to a Minister and briefs him in order to help speedy disposal thereof. Therefore responsible high-grade officers are posted as PS to Ministers. But most of the Ministers allow themselves to be guided by EOEs in disposing off files. No file moves in a Minister’s chamber till the EOE wants it move. The bond between the Minister and EOE is secret. But it is the EOE that really matters. As for example, no file gets disposed off unless Mishra asks Health Minister Sanatan Bishi to clear it. No file moves in the chamber of the Labor Minister Pradipta Kumar Nayak unless Mangaraj wants it to be disposed off. Mishra and Mangaraj are samples of how certain individuals, not officially engaged to do what they are doing, are controlling the officials of Ministers’ offices

A disgusted PS may be available to you on query about a file to say that he cannot place the file before the Minister unless the Minister calls for that. When Damodar Raut was Minister of Information and Public Relations, this was the reply I had got from his PS on query on an accreditation file. Unless you put up the file how should the Minister know of it and how come he will call for the file unless he is informed of the file having come to him from the Department? I had queried. From the reply of the PS, I got it that the EOE on whom the Minister was relying upon to dispose off files specifically coming from the I&PR department was a journalist who obviously was acting Mishra / Mangaraj to Dama Raut at that time. And the syndrome continues.

Watch the office of any Minister and mark how many days are delayed in disposal of files, you get the picture of how EOEs have taken over administration. Lobbies galore. Normal rule derailed.

The Assembly should have asked Chaitanya Prasad Majhi as to how speedily he has been disposing off files coming to him from the department and should have taken a stock of which sort of files have taken how many days in his office for disposal.

But, why he alone? The same question should have been asked to every Minister. If any Minister says that he / she is not guided by an EOE, the details of time he / she has taken to dispose off files vis-à-vis the nature of files read with the period of pending should be reviewed by the Assembly.

Orissa needs to be saved from the grip of lobbyists and commission agents. Therefore there should be a social audit on file disposal in the offices of Ministers with emphasis on locating and weeding out EOEs who thrive on corruption and sans greasing whose palms files seldom move. But this cannot happen unless there is a law enacted specifically for this purpose.

Can the Assembly play any role in it? Before naturally the present Assembly breathes its last, can it at least coin a resolution in this regard?

How long should we watch Ministers escaping unpunished for non-functioning / malfunctioning of their respective departments even as EOEs continue to control their offices?

IS NAVIN PATNAIK TOO WEAK TO HANDLE HRUSHIKESH PANDA?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Chief Minister Navin Patnaik, whom non-Oriya, even foreign industrialists use as an instrument to grab Orissa’s natural resources and corrupt ministers as well as bureaucrats use as a shield, is perhaps too weak to handle IAS officer Hrushikesh Panda.

Panda, Chairman-cum-Managing Director of public sector cooperative business joint of milk producers (OMFED) has shown his guts in ignoring instruction of Navin Patnaik in the matter of hiking retail price of OMFED milk as he has revived the rate struck down by the CM on October 31, 2008.

To total disadvantage of consumers he had arbitrarily hiked the retail rate of milk from Rs.20 per liter to Rs.24 with immediate effect on 16 October 2008 without even any prior announcement. Investigative journalists had shown how the hike was vitiated with impropriety and how OMFED had become an Augean stable. Sharp protests from consumers rocked the corridors of power. The Chief Minister was warned by every one of his cabinet whenever whosoever of them met him. It took fifteen days for the CM to rise to the occasion and to impose a reversal of the price to earlier rate. Simultaneously, he constituted a high-power committee for finding out if price hike of OMFED milk was necessary and if so, what should be the fair price. The committee is working on that and its report is yet to be finalized.

This was not to be digested by Panda.

He is a man who does not like to be subdued. Even his career as an IAS officer has occasions to attract scathing criticism from members of Orissa Legislative Assembly leading to unanimous decisions for stringent actions against him including suspension.

There are occasions when administrative authorities have seen in him streaks of insubordination and there are occasions when the judiciary has intervened in disciplinary actions against him.

Affected OMFED consumers are inclined to suspect that Chief Minister Navin Patnaik’s order for keeping the milk rate stymied at the previous level till the high-level committee determines a just rate and the Government approves the same is struck by the same streak.

If OMFED’s decision to increase the rate is not forthwith nullified by the Government and Panda is not tamed to honor Government orders, it will be clear that Navin Patnaik is too weak to handle Hrushikesh Panda.

POLICE ACTION AGAINST PROGRESSIVE WRITER: ORISSA JOURNALISTS, AUTHORS AND ACTIVISTS PROTEST

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

When misrule gives birth to anarchy, what should artists, authors and journalists do? You can have a glimpse of that by watching what Nishan Editor Lenin Kumar and his colleagues, Dhananjaya Lenka and Rabi Jena have done.

When a State falls in the hands of oppressors that torture progressive writers as they have done to Lenin and his team, what should the men of letters, journalists and authors, the conscience-keepers of the society do without disturbing whatever little tranquility is left?

You can find that out in visiting the unique event Bhubaneswar witnessed in front of the official residence of the Governor of Orissa on December 11, 2008.
in-solidarity-with-lenin
Mark the picture and you get it.

The cream of Orissa’s intelligentsia demonstrated its wrath over oppressive police actions against the progressive trio by the participants gagging their own mouths with black cloths before the Raj Bhawan, from where a delegation of them also went to the Governor and apprised him of the official mischief while urging upon him to intervene in order to protect freedom of expression.

We, in these pages, have discussed the matter in-depth on December 10, 2008.

Surprisingly, in session, the rampart of democracy and the guardian of peoples’ right in the State, the Orissa legislative Assembly, has failed to pay due attention to take stock of this sordid assault on the scribes’ fundamental rights.

DEMOCRACY DEFILED: HOUSE OUSTS CONGRESS MEMBER FOR A WEEK; REALITY ENTOMBED

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Orissa Legislative Assembly has ousted Congress member Tarakant Bahinipati for seven days as on adoption of a treasury bench motion to suspend him the Speaker decided to enforce it on 11th December.

Bahinipati attracted the harsh decision by venturing to hit the Speaker with an earphone though that had missed the target. It was an affront to dignity of the House, members felt. Bahinipati also felt the same way; but explained his action as a reaction to anti-democratic conduct of the treasury side.

After successfully stonewalling the House the preceding day on the ground of absence of a white paper in respect to the official notice calling attention on killing of Laxmananand and consequent communal violence in Kandhamal that turned into exposing the government’s reluctance to provide the same for use as the base of debate, the Opposition on 11th December allowed the House to proceed so that its own version as well as the government’s could be kept on records and the reality could be known.

And, thus the House started to proceed on Kandhamal issue.

And, thus the House came to hear what the Deputy Leader of Opposition, Narasingha Mishra, known for clear comprehension and in-depth analysis of any issue in hand, was to say on Kandhamal.

Mishra began his speech by razing down the “rosy picture” painted by the initiator of the debate, government chief whip, B.K.Arukh on the present situation in Kandhamal. This district, he reminded the government, is one of the most backward districts of India, where Schedule Tribes constitute 52 per cent and Schedule Castes 17 per cent of its total population. But 90 per cent of its population perish Below-the-Poverty-Line (BPL) with an average per capita income of Rs.4, 743/- as against Rs.5,264/- in other districts of Orissa in the same segment, he showed from statistical reports. And roared, is it the evidence of development that the government boasts of? And then, as he proceeded, he cited certain documents on records in print media to show the darker side of the communal flare up at Kandhamal, the core issue of the particular debate.

Giving vent to his suspicion that Laxmananand’s murder might have been the BJP’s handiwork in executing its stratagem to cultivate communal support in approaching elections, he went ahead to support his apprehensions with circumstantial evidences, to the utmost discomfort of the BJP members of the treasury benches.

He cited newspaper reports to show how contemptuously Togadia of saffron combine had alleged that it was Chief Minister Navin Patnaik’s chilling nonchalance that had facilitated the murder of Laxmananand.

And, as bruised BJP members were at a loss to understand how to stop Mishra’s trigger, he went on to show how Laxmananand was a destroyer of societal solidarity in the affected district in the name of religion and how he was the arch villain behind the 1994 caste conflicts that in acrimony had surpassed every conceivable violence in that district.

Even as no action was taken against perpetrators of that crime against the community, it is the BJP’s alliance government that surreptitiously withdrew the security cover from Laxmananand before his murder in the night of August 23, 2008, although as many as 26 hours before the murder, he had informed the Police that there was threat to his life.

After the murder of Laxmanananda BJP has tried to use him posthumously for consolidation of its vote bank, but its coalition government has not net in the real murderer.

This, he said, points the needle of suspicion for the murder of Laxmananand to the BJP and its allies, which they might have done in thirst for votes.

He cited the instance of Kendrapara where a BJP leader had organized bombardment on the house of another leader of his own party with the motive to project the crime as an act of Muslims, so that communal passions ignited against the minority community could have helped the saffronists in having a new polarized vote bank in their favor. There is no reason not to see the same modus operandi in the murder of Laxmananand, Mishra thundered.

Referring to Togadia’s tirades as reported by the Press, Mishra wondered as to how and why the BJP Ministers sharing the dais with Togadia at that time were not taken to task for having not protested against the acerbic words hurled at their Chief Minister. Recitation of the reported words by Mishra was unbearable for the BJD members and even as they squealed, Mishra went ahead to cite Puri Sankaracharya who had alleged that it is the Chief Minister who alone should be held responsible for the murder. The CM, Mishra wondered, was unable to stop the crime as he was dependent on the Sangh Parivar to stay in power and the Sangh Parivar was to make a sacrifice of Laxmanananda at the altar of their ambition that could be fulfilled only through electoral politics. To put his apprehensions on a supportive base, he read out a letter of the Sangh Parivar that was pregnant with the conspiracy as published in a printed edition of Lokamat.

This was more than enough for the BJP members and their BJD allies to digest. They rushed into the well of the Hall demanding deletion of Mishra’s citations.

Under the waves of uproar that soon engulfed the House, Kalpataru Das of BJD was allowed to raise a point of order when Ms. Draupadi Murmu of BJP was in the Chair and as Das started saying, the microphone of Mishra was laid inoperative. The Opposition stood in protest and the pandemonium took a turn towards the worse. In that oral free for all environment inside the Hall, Bahinipati ventured the most condemnable offense against the Chair. He whisked out an earphone and hurled it at the august authority. Democracy was defiled as never before in the very heart of its throne.

Rightly he has been put under suspension. His is an offense that no lover of democracy can tolerate.

But it is also a fact that had the House not been goaded by the treasury bench members into the environment that precipitated the offense, what happened might not have happened at all.

If the peoples of the State are now unable to know the behind the screen reality that could have addressed appropriately to the issue put on agenda of the Assembly by the treasury side itself, whom to blame except the treasury side?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,539 other followers