Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
In our previous posting, we had given vent to our suspicion that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is backing out from the agreement with Oriya Bhasa Saangama Samiti (hereinafter called Samiti) to implement its five point charter of demands through discussion with it after Niladri Bije (Completion of Bahuda Yatra of SriJagannatha), as by then, there was no notice for the discussion from the government to the Samiti.
Exposed, the government immediately contacted the convener of the Samiti to assure that the first meeting of the Joint Action Committee on its demands will be held on the 1st of August without any deviation and the Samiti representatives should be intimated accordingly. Convener Sankar Parida told the joint Secretary of General Administration department who had come with the oral message that the government should immediately notify the Joint Action Committee comprising the five ministers nominated by the Chief Minister and the seven representatives of the Samiti whose names were already submitted to the Government; and then to invite the said members officially to the discussion.
It was surprising that without notification of the Committee, representatives of the Samiti including this reporter were served with individual invitation each addressed as “Oriya Bhasa Sangrama Samitira Pratinidhi”. He requested the members, on behalf of the Government, to join the discussion at 5 p.m. in the Conference Hall in the 2nd floor of the Secretariat. The time was too short to intimate all the seven representatives of the Samiti. However, the members available instantly at Bhubaneswar, whom the government had invited as noted above, believing the Officer that the notification of creation of the Committee would be served on the discussion table, proceeded to attend the meeting.
Representatives of the Samiti, including Convener Sankar Parida, Joint convener Gajanan Mishra, Subrat Prusti, Natabar Satpathy and this reporter were ushered into the conference hall where welcome into the hall displayed only in English was showing how abhorrent is Naveen Patnaik’s Government to Oriya Language.
Soon, Rajya Sabha member of the ruling BJD Sri Baishnab Charan Parida entered into the hall and an official requested him to occupy a seat meant for the ministers in the committee. The Samiti had not recommended him as its representative.
Then came Dr. Debi Prasanna Pattanayak who took a seat among the Officials,where officers of various departments including the Law Secretary, Special Secretary of G.A. department, and others had occupied seats with necessary files.
Then the five-member body of ministers including Law Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh, Health Minister Atanu Sabyasachi Nayak, Power Minister Pranab Prakash Das led by Industry Minister Debi Prasad Mishra, who chaired the joint action conference, entered and adjusted their seats to accommodate Baishnab Parida, who had already occupied a seat meant for the Ministers.
Introducing Mr. Parida and Dr. Pattanayak as invitees to the Committee as a member of Parliament voicing for implementation of the Language Act and a linguist respectively, Chairman Debi Prasad Mishra invited the members into the first “epoch making meeting” in matter of our official language.
Orissa Bhasa Sangram Samiti convener Sankar Parida initiated the discussion with thanks offered to the Orissa Government for convening the Joint Action Committee to end the sixty years old hibernation of the Orissa Official Language Act, 1954.. He expressed hope that if the government’s attitude remains positive, there shall be no difficulty in running of Orissa administration in Oriya language.
It may be noted here that, after sharp reaction of the Sangram Samiti members over the government’s failure to notify the JAC, the government had created a legal instrument called SANKALPA wherein the non-ministerial members were designated as “Nominated Members” and the Committee was named “Ministerial Committee”. It was to work on a single point Term of Reference, i.e. “Implementation of Orissa Official Language Act, 1954”. Subhas Chandra Pattanayak strongly objected to the extinction of ‘Bhasa Sangram Samiti’ in the instrument called SANKALPA and reduction of their strength to five in the Committee created by this instrument. But, none of the other members bothered about that, surprisingly.
Joint Convener of the Samiti Gajanan Mishra and Subhas Chandra Pattanayak discussed various Laws to stress that, use of English in administration is illegal and unconstitutional and neither any office nor any court can be asked or allowed to work in English language to the detriment of people’s interest. Sri Pattanayak, however, made it clear that, unless provision for punishment against contravention of the Official Language Act is made by amending the said Act, the scenario will never change. The Ministerial Committee can correctly address to the Term of Reference, if violation of the Act becomes punishable, he said. Chairman of the Committee advised the bureaucracy, particularly the Principal Secretary, Law to take note of it and called upon members to submit their suggestions in this regard.
At this stage, Baishnav Parida, ruling party MP, whose presence in the hall was not in consonance with the July 8 agreement of the government with the Samiti, tried to belittle the sanctity of the discussion by bragging about his role in movement for use of Oriya as official language.
Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh asked him to elaborate what steps he has taken in the matter. He told that as a Rajya Sabha MP he has raised the issue thrice in the house. As Mr. Arukh advised him to send the details thereof to the Samiti, he tried to escape by saying that recently he has even written to Central HRD Minister on the matter. When he was asked to produce the copy thereof, he faltered and said, he has not given him anything in writing, but has discussed the matter with the central minister.
However, he continued to disturb the discussion deprecating the official talk with the Samiti oblivious of others active in the field of literature.
Law Minister Arun Kumar Sahoo at this stage intervened and made it clear that the Samiti had tremendous support from all over Orissa and to the government it was necessary to form a Joint Action Committee with the Samiti to implement the Official Language Act in right earnest. The situation was precarious with Navakalevar issue concussing the State and in that extraordinary situation, the Chief Minister had to approve the recommendation of the group of Ministers to go ahead with the Samiti which very aptly gave the Government a breathing time for which this joint action conference has been possible. Yet Sri baishnab Parida went on disrupting the meeting. Bellow is the relevant portion of what Sri Sahoo said:
Member Natabar Satpathy suggested that immediate official steps be taken to make Oriya language the most utility language for the young generation and he showed how this could be possible.
Dr. Debi Prasanna Pattanayak stressed upon formulation of a Language Policy sans any delay. On proposal of the Samiti convener Sankar Parida, it was unanimously decided to give the responsibility of drafting of the policy to Dr. Pattanayak. A website would be soon launched for the specific purpose, chairman of the ministerial group Debi Prasad Mishra assured.
Mr. Mishra further said that Sri Baisnab Charan Parida was invited to be involved with the Joint Action Committee. Government have no objection to implement the Official Language Act; but the modalities need be formulated. For this purpose, the Government would discuss with cross sections of men of letters and language activists, he said.
The Samiti opined that all willing men of eminence in field of literature who should have no objection to the Joint Action Committee should be consulted by the Government with a positive mind. But the Samiti will not tolerate if unnecessary dilatory tactics are used. The Government, if it so desires, can consult with Bishnab Parida’s outfit. But that should be outside the purview of the Joint Action Committee, the Samiti stressed.
The way Sri Baishnab Charan Parida behaved in the joint action conference held between the government on the one side and the Samiti on the other side pursuant to resolution of July 8, it was clear that he was deliberately called and given opportunity to create disturbances. There was no problem for him to submit his views to the government separately. But, attempt to disturb the scheduled discussion was not becoming of a ruling party MP.
The Samiti leadership has justified reasons to smell a rat in the official conduct.
Firstly, the known official conduct is anti-Oriya. Despite enactment and enforcement of the Orissa Official Language Act since 1954, the government has kept the law inoperative till date and the present Chief Minister, lest the elite he serves be irritated, has not yet learnt to run administration in Oriya language.
Secondly, as is clear from the Law Minister’s above placed statement, the government has devised a new plea to say that the July 8 resolution was situational, not sincere.
In such circumstances, it is not unreasonable to apprehend that the Government had brought in Bainab Parida to push the joint action program on implementation of the Official Language Act into chaos.
It would be not out of place to mention that Sri Baishnab Parida’s term in the Rajya Sabha is at the verge of completion and unless Naveen babu is pleased, he cannot have a ruling party representation in a legislative body. If the government had “situationally’ (Sehi Ghadisandhi Muhurttare) made a drama of negotiation with the Samiti with false assurance of Joint Action Committee and if, after passing away of that “Ghadisandhi Muhurtta” (moment of predicament) the government is conspiring to back out, then it might be using Baishna Charan Parida to render the assurance inconsequential. And, in order to please the power that be, he had tried to disturb the scheduled discussion. This is just a situational fear.
We shall have to wait and watch.