Mainstream Editor Hired and Fired: Servants of People Society Suspected of Unfair Practice

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Chandrabhanu Patnaik, who was hired as editor of ‘The Samaja’ a couple of months ago, has been fired in the mean time behind back of the readers, making it once again clear that freedom of Press in Orissa is in danger, as plutocracy has kept our polity vitiated with an environment of money-owners’ hegemony.

Either loss of faith in labor law implementation machinery or aversion to litigations has kept Patnaik mum as yet, but his thwarting from The Samaja has alarmed the entire segment of journalists employed in this conservative but mainstream newspaper.

‘The Samaja’, established by Pundit Gopabandhu Das (Utkalmani) was reportedly willed away by him to the Servants of the People Society hereinafter called the Servants Society, founded by Lala Lajpat Rai.

Once upon a time it had emerged as the most circulated daily of Orissa. But since long, it has emerged as a corruption joint from where top functionaries have gone even to jails under charges of misappropriation and other heinous crimes involving property and sex.

The Servants Society was formed with the feeling that amateur and holiday politicians could not do justice to their work and to their country; and that the country’s greatest need was a number of whole-time national workers pledged to a life of poverty and sacrifice. Therefore it was founded “as a nucleus for the training of selected young men for social and political service”.

Its present bosses have clandestinely killed this basic objective.

The Servants Society was inaugurated on 9 November 1921. Lalaji was arrested on 3 December 1921 and sent to prison. In a letter from the prison “to the young men who had been initiated into the society” he had said, “The freedom of the country and her progress depends on the purity of motive, the loyalty and the spirit of sacrifice of her political workers”. Therefore, like Medical College provides education to would be doctors or Law College to would be lawyers, the Servants Society’s “Tilak School of Politics has been started to train up those who would work in the political field”, he had said and had subsequently gone up to formulating the curriculum of this political school.

Inspired by this noble and farsighted program of Lalaji, Utkalmani, founder of then Orissa’s famous institute of patriotic learning – the Satyavadi School – had joined the Society. After his death, the Society has usurped The Samaja by strength of a document purported to be his will.

But Utkalmani’s sacrifice seems to have gone in vain.

The Servants Society is running schools from Balwadies to Senior Secondary level with government grants and profuse funds collected from various sources, the Samaja as well as the students at Delhi; Allahabad, Kanpur (U.P.), Hoshiarpur, Dhudike, Fatehgarh Panjtoor (Punjab) and Vadodra (Gujarat). But, no institute “for the training of selected young men for social and political service”, which was its basic objective any more exists in its list of institutions.

Curiously, the Samaja stands in its list of activities as “political”, as if this is the forum for imparting training in politics conceived by Lalaji!

According to the Servants Society, “About 80% of the net profit of The Samaja is spent for the welfare activities of the people of Orissa by way of extending stipend to needy students, by helping the patients and victims of natural calamities and through miscellaneous charity and donations. A large amount goes to the Gopabandhu Institute of Medical Science and Research which is in the verge of completion at Athgarh, Orissa”.

Net profit of the paper is not known to the public. Not even to the journalists employed by it, whose salaries in wage board terms depend on net revenue earned by the newspaper. Not to the authorities, whose duty is to collect levy for Press Council of India from the newspaper on the basis of its income. So, the claim that 80% of its net profit is spent for welfare activities of the people of Orissa is not a stable claim. So also the claim of “a large amount” going to its Athgarh institute has no credibility as no particular amount is specified.

The Samaja is severely lacking in transparency in its income and expenditure under the management of Servants Society as the net statement shows.

Its conduct in respect to Chandrabhanu Patnaik shows further lack of transparency in the matter of personnel management.

Chandrabhanu was appointed as the editor by virtue of his success in the interview conducted for the purpose. That was notified to the readers of the Samaja. And, he had steered the newspaper into a journalistically better horizon within a very short span of time. But the management has fired him and that he has been fired is not notified to the readers.

Unceremonious dismissal of an editor in medieval manners in 2010 by an organization that claims the legacy of Lalaji and Utkalmani is not at all tenable, specifically when the paper had entered into a new era of newsworthiness under his stewardship.

In public perception, he is a victim of caste conspiracy. The Servants Society, owner of the Samaja, as far as Orissa is concerned, is running under three Brahmins, two of who, Kishore Chandra Tripathy and Ms. Manorama Mohapatra are life members and one, Niranjan Rath is a life worker. The entire organization has 32 numbers of “important Life Members” since the day of its inception. When Lalaji is shown in the 1st position in the list being admitted as a member in 1921, Tripathy, admitted in 1965 occupies serial number 26 and Ms. Mohapatra, admitted in 1985 is at serial number 31. Besides Pt. Gopabandhu Das at serial number 6 (admitted in 1926) the other Oriyas in the list are Radhanath Rath, serial number 12 with admission in 1928 and Biswanath Dash, serial number 18 with admission in 1959. Niranjan Rath is not a life member, but a life worker. When, as such, in Orissa, the Servants Society has been monopolized by the people of Brahmin caste, Chandrabhanu Patnaik is Karan by caste and hence, his joining as editor of the Samaja, though was ensured by his success in interview in response to the organization’s advertisement, was not bearable to the Brahmin members of the Servants Society in Orissa. Had Chandrabhanu not been subjected to medieval manners of hire and fire, such an acrid feeling might never have spread.

We do not put any premium on this feeling, but nonetheless we feel, for better appreciation of the public, the Servants Society should clarify its position in this respect.

Freedom of Press cannot and must not be subjected to caste supremacy on the one hand, and on the other, to money-managers’ hegemony. Dismissal of Chandrabhanu in medieval manner tantamount to money-managers playing with freedom of Press, as the editor of the newspaper personifies the phenomenon of Press freedom.

The Servants Society founded by Lalaji and strengthened by Utkalmani and taking it’s breathe with public contributions must not be allowed to play havoc with freedom of Press and subject modern law of employment to medieval practices.

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