Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Open any newspaper worth the name in Orissa, you will find Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s lovely face and uncial autograph on an official advertisement telling you that June is being observed as the Malaria Eradication Month. You are instructed in the advertisement to cooperate with the mission of making the State mosquito-free. Official agencies and unofficial agencies engaged by administration would spray insecticides to exterminate the mosquitoes and you are instructed not to tamper with the sprayed insecticides for at least three months. The ads are worded to give you the impression that Naveen Patnaik is determined to free Orissa from mosquito menace.

Is he?

Is he really in the mission of extermination of mosquitoes?

Does he really want to eradicate malaria?

As I look at his style of administration, I feel, he is only trying to show us acrobatics in the mass media.

I will marshal the capital city of Bhubaneswar, where he lives and from where he rules, as my evidence.

He being the Home Minister, it is well within his knowledge that Bhuaneswar is so much malaria infested that the police force had to suffer casualties due to mosquito bite while guarding the Assembly in session on summon.

The collective wisdom of Legislature had determined that crabbed dairies operated by cowherds in every nook and corner of the capital city are the principal centers of mosquito breeding and therefore the Orissa Municipal Corporations Act, 2003 had stipulated that there shall be no dairy or cowshed in Bhubaneswar.

Naveen Patnaik has kept this Law inconsequential and in the process, has killed the Supreme Court of India verdict of Feb.2, 2006 that had fully supported this special Law.

I had discussed this issue in these pages in a different context and in due deference to Article 51A (g) and (i) of the Constitution of my Motherland, had immediately sent copies thereof to the Chief Minister and the Chief Secretary of Orissa for their perusal and action. But they are conspicuous by their silence. Several crores of illicit payola clandestinely collected from the milkmen is apparently the cause.

I reproduce relevant portions of that discussion for ready reference.

The illegal cowsheds are, I had observed:

flourishing because the corridors of Orissa administration are full of commission agents and robbers that act as protectors of the pollutant milkmen.

Many things can be known; but every thing cannot be proved. I know, because a milkman had once confided in me, that the Directorate of Estates collects a Sum of Rs. 1000/- off the record from each of the milkman in return for silence over their encroachment over Government land in prime localities in the new Capital to run their lucrative milk trade. Compared to the benefit they fetch this sum of Rs.1000/- looks too small an amount to them. But there being one thousand milkmen families in the heart of the Capital City, the bribe collected from them amounts to not less than Rupees ten lakhs per month. This money is shared amongst all officials who matter in the matter of land encroachment by milkmen.

I was inclined to reject this information as rubbish. But looking at the immunity the milkmen are enjoying, and looking at how the officials have made a farce of the Order of the Supreme Court in the matter of eviction of the milkmen, I am inclined to believe in the information though there is no proof in support of it.

Now let us look at the Supreme Court Judgment.

Published in (2006) 3 Supreme Court Cases 229, it pertains to Civil Appeal No.940 of 2006 arising out of SLP (C) Nos. 16362-16363 of 2004.

By 1994, as many as 686 milkmen had encroached upon prime plots of Bhubaneswar City and running dairy business from there oblivious of the health hazards that was causing to genuine inhabitants. The situation was so unbearable that the then Chief Minister in a bid to get rid of the gowalas declared to rehabilitate them in the villages in the city’s close vicinity. But they did not go while on the other hand they were encouraging other gowalas to encroach upon other vacant plots. By 2003 their number increased to 1000. The dung and other filthy matters of the cowsheds run by them on government plots in prime areas of Bhubaneswar imperiled public health to such extent that in the Orissa Municipal Corporation Act framed in 2003, the legislature not only prohibited establishment and running of dairies or cowsheds in the city proper as well as in the periphery of the town, but also provided for penalty against the dairy operators. Under the new act, all of the milkmen were bound to be evicted from Bhubaneswar city. Against this mandated eviction, the milkmen through their association had gone to Orissa High Court. The Court refused to intervene. Then they stressed on rehabilitation and wanted a mandate from the Court that the Government provides them with plots to run their business. The High Court rejected this plea. Alleging that the High Court’s refusal to order for their rehabilitation before eviction from Government plots was illegal, the Milk Producers Association, Orissa and others preferred the appeal in the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court took serious note of the health hazards the milkmen were causing to the citizens of Bhubaneswar. Even the Supreme Court made it clear. I quote:

“As by reason of the Orissa Municipal Corporation Act, within the periphery of the town, dairies or cowsheds cannot be maintained, the State cannot be entitled to adhere to its earlier plan of rehabilitating them in villages mentioned therein.”

Thus, making it abundantly clear that there does not exist any legal concept which confers a legal right upon the encroacher to be rehabilitated by State action, the Supreme Court has not only rejected the Appeal of the Milkmen but also has ruled,”In view of the 2003 Act, even the doctrine of Promissory Estoppels will have no application.”

So in the Supreme Court the Milkmen have lost their case and the Apex Court has made it clear that the State Government is not even entitled to rehabilitate them.

In an earlier Order [(2004) 8 SCC 733] in Friends Colony Development Committee V. State of Orissa and Others case, the Supreme Court had ruled:

“Not only filth, stench and unhealthy places have to be eliminated, but the (town planning) would be such that it helps in achieving family values, youth values, seclusion and clean air to make the locality a better place to live.”

In another case between N.D.Jayal and another v. Union of India and others, reported in [(2004) 9 SCC 362], a 3-Judge bench of the Supreme Court held, “Right to environment being a fundamental right it is the duty of the State to make it sure that people get a pollution free surrounding.”

The Orissa municipal Corporation Act, 2003 under Sections 409, 543 and 548 by banning running of cow-buffalo-swine-sheds, has provided for the environment the Supreme Court has emphasized on.

Therefore the Supreme Court refused the Appeal of the milkmen and removed every obstacle from their eviction. This verdict was delivered on 2 February 2006.

But neither the Director of Estates, nor the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation nor the Bhubaneswar Development Authority has bothered to evict the milkmen. The concentration of milkmen rose from 686 in 1994 to 1000 in 2003 and it has possibly doubled by end of 2006. The surprising and unexplained reluctance of the State Government to evict the milkmen, even though brilliant youths like Bibhuti and Rubi have succumbed to air pollution caused by the cowsheds and scores of genuine citizens near whose residences the milkmen have been running unauthorized dairies on encroached lands have fallen victims to unhealthy environment affected by filth, stench, dung and other excremental matters.

When the Law enacted in 2003 has prohibited dairy activities in Bhubaneswar and when the Supreme Court by rejecting the Appeal of the milkmen has stressed on their eviction saying simultaneously that the State is not entitled to rehabilitate them anywhere in the city and its periphery, why the State Government has not evicted them so far even though the Apex Court verdict was delivered on 2 February 2006?

It is therefore believable that the milkmen have been greasing the palms of officials to purchase their cooperation in rendering the Supreme Court judgment inconsequential.

Huge Money

If it must be happening then it must be a scam of ten lakhs of rupees per month, taking the officially admitted figure of milkmen to be one thousand. The 1000 figure pertaining to 2003, if they have doubled by this time, the amount of bribe must be 20 lakhs per month. This is a secret income exceeding many times the income the officers earn on records. According to a calculation recorded by the Supreme Court, at Para 14 of its Judgment, “the income per annum of each gowala family of Bhubaneswar comes out to about Rs. 3,71,910.00 as admitted by them in the SLP. Deducting 50% out of the total income towards establishment and maintenance charges, net annual income per family comes to 1,85,950.00”. This huge money every milkman family earns because he runs the dairy on encroached government land in prime areas of Bhubaneswar. To keep up this lucrative business, why should he hesitate to grease the palms of officers who are in a position to carry out eviction?

With this question, I had attracted attention of the Chief Minister as well as the Chief Secretary to the menace that poses pernicious dangers to human health in Bhubaneswar. It is not that they are not aware of this. But payola determining administrative decisions, the breeding centers of mosquitoes are flourishing in every cowshed illegally running in Bhubaneswar.

I have information that attempts are being made to amend the Municipal Act to undo the ban imposed by the 2003 Act on cowsheds so that the changed face of Law can obliterate the impact of the Supreme Court verdict.

Do I err in holding the Chief Minister’s advertised eagerness to exterminate mosquitoes as mere acrobatics politicians display when they propound a cause that they never stand with?

Thus saying, it is pertinent to focus on the conduct of media in this matter. All the media organisations know the Act of 2003, which was elaborately reported with monumental praise for the Government. All of them know all the litigations mentioned above and know how the Government and BMC have taken no step to implement the Act even after Gowalas failed in the Supreme Court that I have cited. All of them know that the sources of mosquito generation are the illegally run cowsheds. While publishing the Government ads mentioned above, why have they not informed the public symultenously about how the Chief Minister has, by not executing the Act of 2003 enacted by his own Government despite the great support the Supreme Court has given to it, created the menacing environment of Malaria and other deseases caused by mosquito-bites?

Advirtisements are information they say. But in reality they are paid information. By paying for this information, has the Chief Minister the right to make media keep quite over what has made him squander away public exchequer in this advertisement? Why should mass media allow itself to be the stage for the chief minister to display his verbal acrobatics designed to keep plople in dark about how his habitual contempts against the welfare-law has led to the mosquito menace in the Capital City?

It is time for the Law-makers as well as the Press Council of India to create mandatory provisions to make media editorialise the advertisements they publish, so that the unseen side of the paid information reaches the people, whose exchequer bears the cost of the said official ads.

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