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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  1. Dear Subhas Babu,

    Thanks for posting a nice and analytical article on the
    ” entry and exit of Sri Chandrabhanu Patnaik Editor of Samaj”.

    When Chandrabhanu joined as the Editor, I was extremely happy because it created a new precedent in the Samaj tradition to have a non-Brahmin as the Editor. Moreover Chandrabhanu was young and a person with vision, for which we expected that he will give a new shape to this oldest Oriya daily. The news about his appointment was published in the Samaj also. I personally congratulated him.

    But all on a sudden his name was found missing in the printer’s line mysteriously. There was no announcement about his resignation/termination in the Samaja. This has given scope for circulation of many rumors in the media circle as well as among the intellectuals and common men of the State.

    Strangely, Chandrabhanu has also not clarified his position so far as to why he was eased out of the Samaja.

    Whatever the fact might be no doubt, it has created an ugly precedent for the Samaja and media world. Though any management have the right to “hire “any body for any post, right to “fire” is controlled by laws of the land. Since the Samaja belongs to Servants of People’s Society, people of Orissa definitely have a right to know the reason of “hiring and firing ” Sri Chandrabhanu Patnaik. At the same time Sri Chandrabhanu owes a clarification before the people, about the circumstances under which he had joined the organisation and reasons of his ouster.

    Since Sri Chandrabhanu’s appointment and ouster is not an issue between Servants of People Society and himself, the people have every right to know the inside story behind the entire episode.

    Thanking you once again for raising such an issue of great public interest,

    Yours sincerely,

    Prasanta Patnaik,

    • Dear Prasanta babu,
      I respect your concern for Mr Chandrabhanu Patnaik but am really shocked to know that you are also not free from the caste bias.

      I would rather be happy if somebody had asked why a veteran like Subhas Patnaik – who has the courage of speaking his own mind – was not picked instead.

      But the caste based argument seems quite illogical to me as the man in point has a close hub-nub with our tourism minister who happens to be a Brahmin. And, together, they have entered into many deals violating all norms set by the government. May be, there are some cases in this regard pending with the vigilance department of the state. And, none of the deals were within the orbit of journalistic activities or the profession of journalism.

      So, if Chandrabhanu Patnaik is suitable to be picked as the Editor of the Samaj, I don’t see any point in sacking Braja Bhai on allegations that he misused the brand like Samaj and used the professional identity for personal benefit!

      My opinion should not be taken otherwise as I always believe in respecting talent and plead for a proper placement of talents at desired positions. I am equally dissatisfied with the way Samaj is operating these days. But, that shouldn’t be made a force to divide our society further.

      • my dear basudev babu,
        i am most happy that you have reacted to my write-up on the Samaja.

        but let me first thank prasanta babu for having circulated it amongst friends whose support to freedom of expression is well known.

        the portion of my write-up that seems to have formed the crux of your reaction may please be read afresh. i have written:

        “In public perception, he is a victim of caste conspiracy”.

        and, then having the public feeling tallied with the records of the Servants of the People Society, i have notes, “Had Chandrabhanu not been subjected to medieval manners of hire and fire, such an acrid
        feeling might never have spread”.

        after this i have said, “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”.

        so, there is no question of caste bias at my end.

        in my personal life i am an atheist and always active to the best of my ability against all sorts of mischief of caste-supremacy.

        my write-up in question is rather meant against caste bias suspected in management of the Samaja, as is being perceived in jettisoning of chandrabhanu.

        i have nothing to say on chandrabhanu-devi mishra nexus as i have no valid information about that. but if what you have been pleased to lead us to has any basis, it should prod us to coin a dictum:
        “corruption has no caste”.

        and, if this nexus has “entered into many deals violating all norms set by the government” and “none of the deals were within the orbit of journalistic activities or the profession of journalism”, it should be
        our duty to expose that conduct of corruption, specifically the part of chandrabhanu, if any therein, as to us, it should be becoming of our collective professional dignity to take all possible steps to stop
        use of journalism in non-journalistic pursuits of avarice. every journalist has the inherent right to safeguard his estate, i.e. the fourth estate from the danger from within.

        thus saying, i would emphasize that collective voice need be raised against jettisoning of chandrabhanu by the management of the samaja in a medieval manner.

        an editor epitomizes journalism in a journal.

        no management should be encouraged to embarrass an editor according to its whims and caprices.

        no management should be allowed to fire an editor as and when it wants.

        the people are given the right to information that an editor in a news organization is empowered under the laws on press to bring to them with the team of journalists he leads in a journal.

        hence, illegal dismissal of an editor is an act of transgression on people’s right to information that comes to them through their preferred forum – the journal concerned – because of the editor who
        leads the journalists under him to fetch and make the information reach the people in a responsible manner.

        on the other hand, whimsical termination of an editor is an act of intimidation perpetrated on the editorial and field journalists employed in the concerned newspaper, which causes psychological alarm
        in them by pushing them into a sense of job insecurity.

        in resultant sequence, in the psyche of the intimidated staff journalists, press freedom gets lost in the labyrinth of loyalty to the paymaster instead of to the people, whose sentinel the scribes are always supposed to be.

        therefore, the surprise dismissal of chandrabhanu needs be questioned by the presspersons in particular and beneficiaries of press freedom in general.

        my write-up is aimed at this only.

        norms for dismissal of an editor needs be immediately formulated and enforced, specifically as corporate connection is influencing managements of major and minor news organizations.

        chandrabhanu’s dismissal has put us journalists as a collective entity in a predicament.

        if we keep mum, it will be detrimental to scribes’ solidarity besides being injurious to freedom of press.

        so we cannot keep mum.

        this makes us demand that the management of the samaja must inform the community as to why it has acted so rash in dismissing its editor in a medieval manner.

        if there was any allegation against him, severe enough to deny him natural justice, it should now come forward with the details thereof so that correctness of its steps may be appropriately evaluated by the
        people, who by their contribution and support have helped the samaja have its present position.

        if it fails to place before the public the details of the allegations, if any, against chandrabhanu, the only other reason behind his dismissal would be assumed to be caste mischief.

        the servants of the people society must clarify its position in this respect.

        it should also make it clear as to why it has not gone beyond the caste supremacists sphere in having people from orissa in its governing body and in recruitment of its life members / life workers.

        it should also detail its income and expenditure, as, just saying that 80% of its profit is spent for welfare of people in orissa or saying that a large amount is spent in athgarh is too unspecific to be accepted as credible.

        the information on expenditure, kept willfully unspecific, kills the spirit of transparency that a newspaper management should be discouraged to indulge in.

        my write-op is also aimed at this.

        i hope, i have clarified my position as author of the write-up.

        but before i conclude, i must say that as suggested by prasanta babu in his comment on the write-up, sri chandrabhanu patnaik should share with his
        friends in the profession as well as the poblic, if he knows any reason of his being “eased out”
        of the samaja, so that the community of mediapersons as well as lovers of freedom of press may use their individual as well as collective wisdom to cultivate a climate where editors should no more be subjected to the syndrome of hire and fire and extraneous influence
        over media houses would no more play havoc with job security of journalists.

  2. What is described about the hire and fire trend in orissa media is really matter of concern. Here there are some humble question to all of the senior journalists;
    (1) Why this debate started so late?
    (2) We all are one family, one profession, i.e, media. undoubtedly there are some rats, but it must not disintegrate us. So, why,the brahmin and karan division?
    (3) I know the intellectuals never and cannot sit in a same table. They have division, but our work is ‘writing for a cause’. So, why not all the media house owners be answerable for their deeds?

    • dear sri dash,
      thanks for the questions.

      in answering the first question, i would like to rely on the dictum: better late than never.

      the second question is the question that I have put to the management of the samaja in giving expression to the public perception that it is caste biased.

      we must stress that the servants of the people society, managing the samaja, answers to the question and clarifies as to whether or not ouster of chandrabhanu patnaik was caused by caste bias; because it appears to be a forum of caste supremacists in Orissa with contempt for other castes.

      this perception is based on the fact that it has only two life members who are in its governing body and only one life worker – all of whom belong to a single caste, i.e. brahmin.

      membership being restricted, it must explain as to why it has not recruited life members / life workers from any other caste in Orissa if it has no bias against the non-brahmins.

      this caste bias must be eradicated, which the article in question aims at.

      to the third question, my answer is: every media house must be made answerable for any such mischief.

  3. respected sir,
    its an excellent article. chandravanu babu is one of the best editors of orissa. basically he has excellent knowledge over orissa politics. but he is humiliated.

    it should not be that we can’t help him. now time has come for revolution. the prominent news persons of orissa should start the revolution. otherwise we may loose some other front-line newspersons.

    i hope you all the news giants unite to give justice to mr. pattnayak. thanks

    Prasanta Patnaik,
    Subhas Chandra Pattanayak,
    Sampad Mohapatra.
    D.N. Singh,
    Rabi Das,
    Gopal Mohapatra,
    Prafulla Das,
    Dwijen Padhi.
    i appeal you all to end silence in the matter of chandrabhanu patnaik. the way he has been eased out should be effectively opposed.

  5. Dear Friends,

    I was observing the debate concerning Media Management and staff relations, including the issue of Chandrabhanu Babu.

    But as of yet, why he is silent? or Orissamatters has not published his views/stand?

    Biswajit Moharana

    Respected All,
    I Shri Devi Prasanna Nayak a working sub-editor of ‘The Samaja’ is being fired again for my voice against corruption, favoritism and nepotism making it once again clear that freedom of Press in Orissa is in danger. I was transferred overnight and within 5 minutes of receiving my transfer order put under suspension. The management of Samaja didn’t stop here to scare a face against corruption and made me publicly humiliated and damaged by publishing a Public Notice on front page of The Samaja on July 07, 2012. This has never happened in the history of India Press.

    I’m not only working as a sub-editor in Samaja but hold the post of the President of Samaja employees’ union, i.e. Utkalmani Sambadpatra Karmachari Sangh, a registered trade union body. As you aware that ‘The Samaja’, established by Pundit Gopabandhu Das (Utkalmani) was willed away by him to the Servants of the People Society herein after called the SoPS.
    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. Dr. Justice Arijit Pasayat Enquiry Committee report on Samaja makes a white blow to the Management of Samaja and SoPS. For its implementation the employees’ union requested repeatedly to SoPS but the body remained silent. So the union called for Hunger Strike and four office bearers of the union were put under suspension. Finally SoPS bent down and decided to implement Oasayat Committe Report.
    The then General Manager Sh. Hemant Kumar Sahoo was terminated from the service and Administrative Manager Ashok Ranjan Das transfered to Kolkata. Pasayat Comittee recommened for not allowing SoPS’s Life Member Sh. Niranjan Rath into the Samaja Campus for 3 years. So Manubhai Patel, the then President of SoPS transfered Sh. Rath to Sambalpur.
    Again this Manubhai claiming to be the President of SoPS has posted Sh. Rath as Printer Publisher of Samaja and a half learned Life Member Bhim Sen Yadav as Chairman of Samaja Board of Management.
    So the employees who boldly stood against corruption and corrupt people like Sh. Rath are now under wrath of Sh. Rath and are being victimized. So far six employees of Samaja were transferred and Sh Yadav and Sh Rath are creating chaos inside Samaja premises by threatening of action to peace loving employees. Here I request my comrades of the union not to loose patience as this impasse will not stand long.
    Every employee has the inherent right to protect his interest I would appeal that collective voice need be raised against this heinous crime as 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 Workers’ Interest”.

    Devi Prasanna Nayak
    Sub-Editor and President Workers’ Union

  7. Pingback: The Samaja in Death bed: Mass Protest Against Villainy of Servants of the People Society « Orissa Matters

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