Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Several of the kings in pre-independence India specifically in Orissa were so tyrant that they had imposed on the people they were torturing a tax called PITUNI KARA which was a fine in cash for being beaten. The masses ultimately woke up against such tyranny and the kings were so thrashed that they had to abdicate their thrones and merge their States in independent India.
When Congress misrule surpassed the limits, in several States in India, people refused to grant a fresh mandate to this party of the factotums of Nehru family in 1967 and thus in Orissa, one of the former kings, R.N.Singhdeo managed to form a ministry in coalition with Jan Congress, comprising Congress members opposed to Nehru family hegemony. Corruption in the state acquired elite status and defamation of political opponents and victimization of bureaucrats who did not dance to the tune of the CM’s proteges became the norms of the day. Hypocrisy stood for administration. And, as people got disillusioned, protests galore, Singhdeo with many ex-kings in his segment of the coalition, wanted PITUNI TAX to be imposed on areas where organized resistance to what he called governance, was discernible. It was strongly resented to in Orissa. Fissure in the coalition grew and the Jan Congress withdrew from the coalition. Government collapsed. People refused to give mandate to Singhdeo. Like a house of cards, his party – the Swatantra Party – also collapsed and got obliterated from political sky of India.
Emboldened by repeated return to power, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who by sheer misuse of power has reduced Orissa to a Bijudom by naming and renaming utmost majority of public institutes and welfare projects after his father Biju Patnaik with himself as its preening prince, has revived the PITUNI TAX of the kings’ concept, as informed, exploited and tortured people in rising numbers in every segment of society are demonstrating their protests against ongoing misrule.
This time, the Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation is being used as the medium of this punishment to still even the still small voices.
It would be wrong not to say that, in Orissa, the Governments in succession have gone against the people to please private industries and traders who prosper at the cost of the masses, as thereby, they, who run the Government, fetch fabulous financial gain.
In the process, people have been left at the mercy of exploiters and a climate of oppression and opportunism has engulfed administration pushing the entire working class – both in public and private sector – and self-employed ones – mostly in agriculture sector – into colonized condition. Naturally, people must protest.
One of the governments, run by J.B.Patnaik, sensing that protests in front of the citadel of power would obviously be by the well-informed ones and hence of immense impact, had contrived a method of obstructing all such protests against misrule and all possible campaigns for any alternative, by converting the vast open space kept by the original planners in front of the State Secretariat for such democratic activities, to a park named after Indira Gandhi after her demise. People of Orissa, after that, like they had thrown down Singhdeo to dustbin of time, thrashed the Congress out of office.
But, since the conversion of the democracy point to Indira Gandhi Park, despite the Governments’ insistence that people should express their concerns and/or protests in the Janata Maidan, away from the Secretariat, victims of government apathy and injustice were using the boulevards adjacent to the said park, spanning in front of the Sate Assembly up to the Master canteen square, to demonstrate their protests. Rallies and Dharana demonstrations were also being staged by the general public in expression of solidarity with the victims such as the ones conducted when the Naveen Patnaik Government became a butcher in Kalinga Nagar or its police became protector of the rapists in Pipili.
Naveen has now enhanced JB’s restrictive tactics against voices of mass conscience by imposing a PITUNI TAX in a different form.
Be it noted that the Government of Orissa rules from the City of Bhubaneswar. And, the City is run by Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation that lives under the pleasure of the Urban Development Department of the Government. Though managed on records by an elected body of ward representatives headed by a Mayor, the BMC is controlled by the Government through Laws enacted and enforced by it, through Government instructions and notifications leashing or unleashing its activities and through Government officers that administer it.
Now, this BMC has been used to tax the demonstrators to the tune of Rs.1000/- for staging their demonstration with the rider that the amount shall be recovered with penalty from leader(s)/organizer(s) of demonstration(s) if the tax amount is not paid in advance.
We mark that the Communist Party of India has staged a protest demonstration in front of the BMC office while demanding instant withdrawal of the new version of PITUNI TAX.
We deem it proper to warn the Government that if ventilation of people’s resentment against misrule is thus obstructed, the inevitable outburst of the tortured people’s wrath would be too sharp for the administration to overcome. From the former kings of Orissa who had imposed PITUNI KARA on their subjects to the former ruler of Balangir who in the attire of Orissa’s Chief Minister had taken steps to enforce PITUNI TAX, to a former journalist who had become the first CM to rule the State for a decade – all were thrashed to the dustbin by people of Orissa for having used devices to obstruct their voice against misrule. If Naveen fails to learn, it would be his mistake. This tax cannot be but anything other than a fine for being misruled in Orissa! It is better for Naveen to take note of it.