Bhasha Andolan refuses to be hoodwinked by the State Cabinet

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

As the Black Flag Movement of Bhasha Andolan for amendment of Orissa Official Language Act, 1954, hereinafter called The Act, to provide for punishment to whosoever fails to work in Oriya in offices within the jurisdiction of the State reached the 623rd day on December 26, the State Cabinet that met at Puri in an unprecedented manner, agreed with the demand and adopted resolution to provide for “appropriate punishment” against any contravention thereof. The day was also the foundation day of BJD. Therefore its members and supporters from all over Orissa had gathered there. TV channels were live telecasting the event. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik calculatedly used the occasion to assure the people in general and the Bhasha Andolan activists spread through out the State in particular that, contraveners of The Act would no more go unpunished.

It is a great achievement of Bhasha Andolan, no doubt. But the decision of the Cabinet, is too vague and vitiated to be viewed as a desired development. Therefore, it has been decided to continue with the Black Flag campaign till all administrative dangers to Oriya Language are completely removed.

The Mischief

To our shock, the Cabinet, ultra vires the Rules of Business, has dared to mock at the Nation of the Oriyas in the Resolution No.3 that has left the fate of the people to bureaucracy that is anti-Oriya and pro-English in administration. The following aspects are blatantly malicious:

(1) It has been suggested that with provision of “appropriate punishment”, employees and departments would be rewarded for extensive use of Oriya language;
(2) The Departments shall determine the standard and areas where Oriya language should be used.

Firstly, the word “appropriate”is too confusing in matter of punishment, particularly when the Cabinet has failed to define the word and has failed to appreciate that, no department is a punishable person and any punishment to any department would be nothing but a cash-punishment, which, if implemented, shall punish the people for fault of the employees; because, it is only the people that feed the departments with funds from their exchequer.

Secondly, leaving the standard of Oriya Language and scope of its use as official language to be determined by the Departments is nothing but putting the Orissa Official Language Act in irrecoverable atrophy by de facto nullifying the preamble as well as Sub Section (2) of Section 1 of the Act.

Atrophying the Act, for implementation of which we have been demanding its inviolability, can never be countenanced.

Instead of resorting to wordy acrobatics such as the confusing terms – “appropriate punishment”, “extensive use” and “standard and area of use” – the Cabinet should have resolved to adopt the draft, which, as a member of the Ministerial Committee I had given, and which, the Ministerial Committee had unanimously accepted and wanted to proceed with after vetting by the Law Department, and in reality, which was essential for working of the Act; and to which, despite posting in the specific official website under odia.odisha.gov.in, no objection from any individual or organisation had been raised. It could have forced the bureaucracy to frame the proposed amendment in terms of this suggestion in the Ministerial Committee. with specific punishment. But the Cabinet has allowed itself to dance to the tune of the anti-Oriya and anglicized bureaucracy, giving to it, thereby, the free hand yet again to foil the purpose of the Act, as is its wont and as it had done earlier.

Its intention to reward the employees who would work in Oriya extensively means that, those who shall not work in Oriya in all and any official work as stipulated in the object and reasons as well as at Sub Section (1) of Section 2 of the Act shall be rewarded. 

Over and above this mischief, this particular Resolution has asked the Government to punish the employee as well as the concerned department that fail to use Oriya extensively. Punishing a department for fault of an employee, as has already been said, is punishing the people of the State, because the departments run with the funds the people allow the Government to appropriate.

Mischief of bureaucracy

Mischief of bureaucracy against Oriya Language is visible in what happened to the Ministerial Committee created for the specific purpose under Resolution No. GAD-CODE-CORDES-0013-2015-18715/GA on 31.7.2015.

All the Ministers in the Ministerial Committee as well as the Chief Minister had agreed to amend the Act and to frame the Rule as I had suggested in my draft referred to supra. The Law Secretary was asked to vet the same for placement before the Assembly. A non-Oriya officer G.V.V.Sharma, then the Principal Secretary in the GA department derailed the proposal and the file had to die a premature death.

The legislation proposed by me was put up in the file for approval. When it reached Sri Sharma, he raised objection to Rule 4 and Rule 10 of the Rules that I had submitted, placed in its entirety as official draft at page 10 of the file.

Let us first see, what these two Rules, proposed by me, had said.

Rule 4. All signboards, hoardings, advertisements, posters, pamphlets and nameplates in Odisha meant for public reading, public knowledge or public information shall be only in Odia, or in any other language along with Odia.

Rule 10. For the violation of any provision of the Act or these Rules, the person responsible for it in his personal capacity shall be punished with a fine of Rs.2,000/- and a person responsible in his official capacity shall be punished with a fine of Rs.10,000/-.
Provided that, for each subsequent violation, the amount of fine shall be double of that for the first violation.

Sharma in his noting on 19.11.2015, said, both these Rule appear impossible for implementation.

When the Chief Secretary Gokul Chandra Pati ignored Sharma’s noting on Rule 4, he wanted the Law Department to opine if punishment could be imparted under Rule 10, even though the entire set of draft Rules and Act-amendment proposal I had given was approved by the Ministerial Committee with a direction to the Principal Secretary, Law, who was,as a member, present in the Committee, to vet it immediately, thereby denying any scope to the bureaucracy to sit over it.

But the bureaucracy played the mischief. Sharma didn’t send the file to Principal Secretary of Law to obtain his views of Rule 10 of my proposed set of Rules. Attempts were made to defeat my entire endeavor. I can’t say if this subterfuge was resorted to under direction of the Chief Minister or the the Chief Minister was misled to drift away from his willingness to amend the Act as proposed by me.

Without calling the Ministerial Committee, in the name of the Committee, the Chief Minister was made to sign on the dotted lines on 17.12.2015 , pronouncing a 9-point program for “strict implementation of the Orissa Official Language Act, 1954” , which completely obliterated the idea of imposition of punishment for violation of the Act by amendment of the Act and framing of Rules.

That, the CM acted under the pressure of the non-Oriya officers was clear, when Sharma, on his own accord, expanded the CM’s 9-point program to a 14-point program the next day and sent the same to departmental Secretaries in his letter No. UOI 213/GA dated 18. 12.2015 behind back of the Ministerial Committee.

Ministerial Committee virtually killed

It de facto killed the Ministerial Committee.

When I strongly objected to this, Sharma who was the convener of the Committee, had to convey its meeting again 12.1.2016 with an agenda that required the same 14-point program arbitrarily created by him over the CM’s 9-point program,if at all that was so, to be concurred by the Committee.

It was shocking to note that hand-in-glove with Sharma, Dr. D. P. Pattanayak and his gang in the Committee and Sri Baishnab Charan Parida, eager to keep the government pleased in order to exploit our mother tongue for their respective commercial and political purposes, did not oppose the agenda that excluded the proposal for amendment of the Act and the proposed Rules.

Establishment of Bhasha Andolan

Sure of the futility of the Ministerial Committee, I vowed before Kulabruddha Madhududan in my study on the Utkal Bivas, 2016 to start a new movement in the pattern that I had used in Athgarh against CM J.B. Ptnaik in the 1980s to espouse my own mission of legislating the draft I had given in the Ministerial Committee. I appealed the general public in my Facebook timeline to mail me their responses to my proposal. CA Biswajeet Mohanty was the first friend to respond positively. Soon support came from Adv. Gajanan Mishra, Prof.(Rtd) Kamala Prasad Mohapatra, IAS (Rtd) Pramod Chandra Patnaik and others. Poet Umakanta Raut came with Gajanan Mishra to my residence to pledge his support.

But all these friends were not in a position to join me in my contemplated silent Black-Flag-March from the Assembly to the RajBhawan at 5 PM everyday. I accepted my trusted follower Pabitra Maharatha’s offer to join me and then Pradyumna Satpathy, Tusarkant Satpathy and Sagar Satpathy volunteered their support and an ultimatum demanding immediate adoption of the legislation proposed by me in the MC, was served on the Government through the Chief Secretary. The Black Flag Campaign,known as Bhasha Andolan, Orissa, commenced on 13 April 2016 as notified.

After 39 days of this campaign, the Government announced on 21.5.2016 that, it would amend the Act as we had wanted. We wanted immediate amendment through Ordinance, and that was also complied with by the Government, which announced to promulgate the Rules by 15.8.2016. We kept the Black Flag Campaign postponed till that day as a mark of democratic faith in the Chief Minister, though Section 4 inserted therein, by renumbering my proposed section to 5, was pregnant with mischief over and above being unauthorized.

CM cheats the State

But when the Rules were framed and promulgated with effect from 12.8.2016, we found the State blatantly cheated. Under Rule 3, only a Committee of 5 Secretaries headed by the Chief Secretary was constituted to “review” the implementation of the Act twice a year.

We had to resume the Black Flag movement which has reached, including the postponed phase, 623 days on the 26th and is being supported by the people through collaborative Black Flag campaign in various important places like Sambalpur, Rourkela, Phulbani, Brahmapur, Chhatrapur, Byasa Nagar, etc.

Assembly kept in dark

The political Government is so very ashamed of its own subjugation to the scheming bureaucracy that it did not dare to place before the Assembly the details of the “circumstances which had necessitated immediate legislation by an Ordinance.” In the process it kept the Assembly in dark about the Rules framed after the Ordinance.

CM invites

However, under impact of the continuing campaign, the CM had invited me to discuss the issue on 19.5.2017. I had met him with my two colleagues Pradyumna Satpathy and Pabitra Maharatha in his official chamber at the appointed time and had, after apprising him of the details of the defects the 2016 amendment has infested the Act with, given him a memorandum demanding deletion of section 4 inserted through the amendment or for its replacement with my fresh suggestion depicted in the memorandum.

Memorandum misses in CMO!

This was done in the presence of former Minister Debi Prasad Mistra, Minister Prafulla Samal and MP Pratap Chandra Dev. The same went mysteriously missing, as per the reply to a RTI query. Such is the CM’s responsibility towards our language! However, impact of our campaign continued to affect the administration.

This has precipitated the unprecedented meeting of the Cabinet at Puri. But we find the same bureaucratic mischief mingled with anglicized mentality of the Chief Minister sic passim the cabinet decision on 26.12.2017, which has failed to tell the people what sort of punishment is to be given to whosoever does not work in Oriya in offices/establishments and how is the bureaucracy competent to determine the “standard and area” of Oriya to be used as official language in illegal disregard to Sub-Section (2) of Section 1 and Sub-Section (1) of Section 2 as well as the ‘Object and reasons’ of the Orissa Official Language Act, 1954, yet in force.

It is intriguing that, the Rule 4 of my proposed set of Rules to which the non-Oriya IAS officer G.V.V.Sharma had objected in the file and had suppressed the file on feeling that the Department of Law shall have no objection against that, has been placed as Resolution 4 in this set of Resolutions at Puri, albeit partially.But instead of placing the same in the proposed amendment of the Act, it has been preferred to be put under the Shops and Commercial establishment Act. This breathes the mischief that is brewing in the mind of the mandarins or their guided Chief Minister against our language. I am placing here the official Press note in its entirety for records and perusal of the public.

Therefore, it would a folly to pay any heed to the Cabinet decision. We have resolved to continue the Black Flag Movement till the actual amendment takes place and contents thereof accepted by the campaigners.(Updated).