Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

When chronic loss kills a cooperative commercial concern, the reason behind it must be subterfuge and corruption.

Yes, this is the reason of the present precariousness of The Utkal Rastrabhasha Prachar Co-operative Press & Publishing Society Ltd, Cuttack, which was once the most prestigious and fruitful organization in print and publication sector in Orissa.

The Society had three successful units: Press Unit, Publication Unit and Handmade Paper Unit. All of them were running in profit. But, such sort of people grabbed it that it is now bankrupt and the auditors have remarked that the “trade profit earned by the society during previous years have not been sufficient to shoulder its establishment expenditures”. The deterioration started with the aggressively avaricious contractor turned politician Basant Kumar Biswal ( no more alive) becoming President of the Society on 16.2.1990.

Biswal had a close associate in Bhagavat Prasad Mohanty, also like him a minister in Congress cabinet, who was eventually elected Vice-President of this society. Both together, like in Orissa’s power politics, displayed such manipulability that the profit fetching organization stared showing continuous loss.

Though Mohanty got formally elected as Vice-President on 12.8.1993, ever since Biswal had taken over as President, he was regarded as the shadow boss. Both of them were planning to set an empire in the fourth estate. The daily Samaya of Biswal with Mohanty in the Board of Directors, is credited with ushering in an era of colored printing of newspapers in Orissa. But initially Biswal had thought of entering into the fourth estate by using the Rastrabhasa Press. Mohanty was known to be Biswal’s think tank. A plan was cooked up to appoint one of Biswal’s factotums as Secretary-cum-Chief Executive of the Society and through him to enroll new members to form a majority in the General Body to facilitate transformation of the Press and its centrally located vast area and buildings for the newspaper venture of Biswal and Mohanty. Accordingly a man called Balabhadra Prasad Acharya was appointed as Secretary by Biswal on 24.7.1991.Even as he had started enrolling new members to proceed with the hidden agenda, senior and legitimate members could smell a rat and Biswal tried to save his skin by pretending as if he had no plan to grab the press and its land for his media project.

But, this did not deter Acharya looting the society. Special audit conducted for the period from 1990 to 2006 has found that huge misappropriation has reduced the society to such a state that meeting establishment charges has become impossible. When in all the units of the society there were misappropriations, the amount involved was much smaller. But the amount of misappropriation Acharya has been found to have committed is in terms of lakhs. He was appointed on a paltry sum of salary at Rupees one thousand only. But he is found to have misappropriated Rs. 15,91,199.00 during his tenure as Secretary of the ailing society by tampering with the paper stock. It seems, with his joining as Secretary, the era of mega misappropriation had commenced in the Rastrabhasa Press as his two successors, Kshitish Chandra Samantray and Sanjay Kumar Malla are also found to have misappropriated Rs.6,22,520.00 and Rs.4,63,419.00 respectively through the same method of tampering with paper stock.

Acharya has not halted at the level of Secretary of the ailing society. He has entered into government service in the rank of Inspector of Co-operative Societies by exploiting his unholy links with Biswal and Mohanty when both of them were ministers under J.B.Pattnaik in 1997. He was not qualifying for entry into government service. But under pressure from Biswal, the then Assistant Registrar as well as the Deputy Registrar of Co-op. Societies had helped him manufacture false documents to bag the post.

On a thorough investigation into the illegality of his entry into government service and analyzing how the records he had produced to establish his eligibility to government job were false and fabricated, the official auditor has expressed shock over how responsible officers like the ARCS and DRCS had approved them through verification. To quote him, “The certificate furnished by the Secretary (The Utkal Rastrabhasha Prachar Co-operative Press & Publishing Society Ltd) was not correct. The verification certificate furnished by ARCS, City Circle was also false. It was also carelessly countersigned by the then DRCS, Cuttack Division on dt.06.10.97 without ascertaining the correctness of the certificate”.

Recommending recovery of the huge money misappropriated by Acharya without loss of time, the special audit officer has clearly notified the authorities that “The Special Audit is of the opinion that Sri Acharya has entered into Government Service as Inspector of C.S. by furnishing a false certificate that he was serving as secretary since 05.05.87, whereas he served as secretary from 24.07.91”.

He has made this fabrication of certificate in order only to grab the permanent government post under executive quota of 80% as per Orissa Sub-ordinate Co-operative Service Recruitment Rules, 1992. Seeing how higher officers of the co-operative department like the ARCS and DRCS have given false verification certificates in his favour in order to help him get the job is seeing a classic instance of corruption that has engulfed the co-operation department.

The Special Audit Officer has noted, “The Registrar, Co-operative Societies, Orissa, Bhubaneswar may kindly investigate, if Sri Acharya has been selected basing on such a fabricated and non-verified certificate and take appropriate action as he deems fit”.

But the Registrar is unable to explain as to why he is unable to initiate any action so far against this dubious recruitment and against the unveiled misappropriation.

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