Orissa Assembly Mustn’t be made a Political Junkyard

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

It is not that the Orissa Assembly is so very busy that it has no time for debates on Law Bills and Demands. But it has passed certain Bills and the Demands without the desired debates thereon. The Assembly is reduced to a political junkyard.

This nasty situation could have been avoided had the Government been a bit responsible in its response to the Opposition demand for a just and necessary discussion on chit fund scam that has put around 25% of the State’s population in drastic financial loss and has put the Chief Minister and the ruling party in terrible loss of credibility.

None other than the Government is responsible for the loss of its credibility. When depositors found that they have been cheated by the chit fund swindlers, they knew that they had been tempted to make their trysts with the chit fund operators only because the Government of Naveen Patnaik had appeared as their patron and Sri Patnaik himself also had posed as promoter of the major ones of them like the SeaShore, even after being notified by the appropriate machinery of the Central Government about their dubious conduct. The second most spectacular reason of loss of the Government’s credibility is found in its opposition to CBI investigation into the chit fund felony. Naveen Patnaik’s Government had spent about half a crore of Rupees on lawyers to obstruct the Supreme Court from ordering for CBI enquiry, claiming that neither any minister and/or leader of the ruling party nor any functionary of the Government was involved with the chit funds; whereas the CBI has already put some of the close colleagues of the CM – both political and executive – under the grip of law, for their discernible and/or suspected Role in the chit fund scam.

When this loss of credibility of the Government was posing a threat to mana of democracy,  it was natural for the Opposition to demand a discussion on chit fund in supersession of all other businesses. It should have been the best for the Leader of the House – the Chief Minister himself – to come forward with how the Government looks at the issue, and with the details of the actions taken  by the Government in the matter so far, and proposed action, if any, it wants to take. The Chief Minister should have helped the Assembly with a proper, fair and honest debate that could have helped the affected people to understand where they really stand vis-a-vis the chit fund operators. But, sadly, that never happened. All nasty tricks were used to debar the House from having the accounts of the Government  in the matter. The result has paralyzed the Assembly in matters of accountability of the Government for eleven working days till today, whereas it is increasingly being felt that the ruling party is derailing the House in order only to help the Chief Minister escape public gaze.

Significantly, the Speaker has become a party to subjugation of the Assembly Members’ right to speak in the Assembly on matters of urgent public importance. In respect to desirability of debate on chit fund felony, he wanted advice of the Advocate General in the matter and the AG reportedly advised that, no debate, either through any motion or demand-discussion, should be allowed on chit fund. This has pushed the issue into a turn towards the worse.

In public perception, the Speaker of the Assembly, who owes his berth in the House to the ruling party, and has every reason to stay grateful to the Chief Minister for the position he is holding, has been helping the CM by subjugating the sovereignty of the House to overlordship of the Advocate General who has vested interest in blocking the debate on chit fund. The Leader of the Opposition has condemned the reliance put on the AG, as, before accepting the assignment, he was the advocate of the chit fund set-up SeaShore, which is a major object of CBI investigation.  Inability of the Speaker to remove the blockage on normal proceeding of the House has earned objurgation even from a senior member of the Cabinet Dr. Damodar Raut. Of course, after a day of putting on records his strong disapproval of the Speaker’s action, Raut has taken a U-turn.

In its history, the Orissa Assembly had never fallen in such a situation of abnormality. Nobody knows how its normalcy would be restored unless the government educates itself to be answerable.

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Orissa Assembly Embarrassed by Minister’s Monkey Business

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

On commencement of the winter session today, Orissa Assembly was resigned to ruckus over severe protests of the Opposition members against being cold-shouldered by the speaker in their demand for discussion on chit fund scandal that has affected reportedly no less than a crore of depositors.

After obituary mentions, the only business, which could be transacted in the benumbed day of repeated adjournments that failed to function even for half an hour, was just a presentation of the supplementary budget worth Rs.4502.34 crores for the current fiscal.

But, before that, the the day had to bring in embarrassment for the Assembly, as a minister’s monkey business made a female member cry for protection of her dignity in the floor of the house. The victim is the lone female member of BJP, Ms.Radharani Panda. She alleges that agriculture minister Pradeep Maharathy hurled vulgar words at her, when she was raising slogans against the government over the chit fund felony.

On her allegation, the Speaker has held an all-party meeting and his ruling is set to come tomorrow.

But the BJP suspects that the minister has deliberately committed the mischief for diverting the attention of the house from the chit fund scam to issue of dignity of female member.

CBI and Corruption: Commonality between Father and Son_ Biju and Naveen

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

When the needle of suspicion in the compass of scams and misrule is pointing at Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik with increasing discernibility, Amicus Curiae Shyam Divan has told the Supreme Court on November 5 that Orissa Government is not cooperating with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the ongoing inquiry into mega chit fund scams, even though the same is being conducted under orders of the Apex Court.

This reminds me of the same experience the CBI had had while investigating into economic offenses of Biju Patnaik. The CBI Director, while confirming that certain allegations against him were “serious”, had told the Union Home Minister in his report on November 15, 1964 that, further enquiry – obviously judicial – should be instituted, to “come to a definite and clear conclusion”.

The striking commonality between the father and the son – Biju and Naveen – in corrupting administration to the extent of creating situations for the apex authorities to order for investigation thereinto by CBI, is as gross as substantial.

Everybody who is currently watching the cascading exposures of chit fund and other scams is seeing how in increasing velocity public suspicion is rushing towards Naveen. It would be better, therefore, to focus on the other one, his father Biju Patnaik.

Clandestine Comprador

After occupying the Chief Minister post in June1961, Biju unleashed such a reign of corruption and embezzlement that a former Chief Minister of Orissa, the great Gandhian Nabakrushna Choudhury had to put before the public, the modus operandi of Biju and his likes that were collecting huge sums of money in the name of election funds and swindling the same while acting as clandestine compradors of mine-owners and big businessmen, to the serious detriment of the common people and the public exchequer.

He had exposed the felony in the inaugural function of Gandhi Tattwa Prachar Kendra at Balasore on 23 July 1963.

Mass Awakening against Misrule

Following that exposure, by the end of August 1963, people of Orissa, severely affected by his corrupt practices and maladministration, had woke up en masse to seek his resignation. Students all over the State had spearheaded the campaign to oust him from the chair of the Chief Minister. Marking his swift fall, Justice H. R. Khanna, who had later headed the Judicial Enquiry into his offenses, had noted that his misuse of power for personal and family benefits had so severely eroded his credibility that, “within two or three years of his stewardship his public image became tarnished and the hopes which were built around him were shattered to pieces”.

Khanna Commission was the culmination of people’s non-stop agitations for action against Biju.

The unprecedented mass awakening led by the students had spread in full fury all over the State calling for action against him. The Congress high command and the Congress government in the center had tried to protect him. But all their nasty tricks had failed.

Forced to Quit

The tumult of the unprecedented mass agitation against him had ultimately forced the Congress High Command to ask Biju to quit under face-saving cover of Kamaraj Plan.

Biju resigned on October 1, 1963 in order to escape the wrath of the people.

His protege-cum-partner in corruption, Biren Mitra took over as Chief Minister.

Immediately after he took the oath, Mitra declared that he would rule the State on behalf of Biju, exactly as Bharat of Ramayan had done after Ram was banished from Ayodhya.

No wonder, the CBI faced hurdles in investigation. With his docile protege as his successor, Biju, as Chairman of the State Planning Board, acted ‘super CM’ .

CBI pressed on Preliminary Enquiry

People of Orissa were not content with Biju vacating the CM post. They wanted action against him and continued their agitation. The Parliament was rocked with demands for action against him. His passport should be seized and he should be subjected to criminal prosecution for felonies he committed, was the concentrated demand. It had forced India’s then Home Minister Gulzarilal Nanda to ask the CBI to conduct a “preliminary enquiry” into allegations leveled against Biju by Leader of Opposition and scores of public figures.

The CBI enquiry was ordered obviously to calm down the rising wrath of the people against the Congress Party under the banner and protection of which Biju had run his empire of corruption.

When the CBI penetrated into files and facts that formed the basis of some of the allegations against Biju, it faced non-cooperation from the State Government to proceed further. But to its utmost dismay, it was under pressure from above to give Biju a clean chit.

Pressure for exoneration

The CBI Director has very tactfully revealed this reality in his Report to Union Home Ministry on November 15, 1964. He had said, “On the basis of the scrutiny of the records, it is not possible to say that all the allegations are unfounded, unsubstantiated or untrue”. These very words of the CBI Chief most intelligently revealed that there was tremendous pressure on him from above to say that the allegations against Biju were unfounded, unsubstantiated and untrue.

Had there been no pressure to say “the allegations were “unfounded, unsubstantiated and untrue” the CBI would never have said, “it is not possible”.

Who must be the people in high echelon of power to have put such pressure on CBI?

Collaborators in Central Cabinet

We find them in the Union Cabinet who conspired to give the CBI report a burial as it went against Biju.

Instead of appointing a Judicial Commission of Enquiry, which was by then formulated and adopted as the necessary means to locate the crux of alleged felonies, when preliminary enquiries indicate prima facie correctness of allegations against persons in power, the central cabinet appointed a Sub-Committee of its own to “consider in detail the allegations against Orissa ministers, the CBI reports and the Ministers’ explanations”.

Despite Misconduct convincingly caught

The Cabinet Sub-Committee tried its best to render the CBI report inconsequential. Yet, the offenses of Biju Patnaik and his partner in corruption Biren Mitra were so vastly visible that, while refusing to institute a Judicial enquiry, it could not but say, “the manner in which Sri Patnaik and Sri Mitra, directly or otherwise, conducted government transactions in which were involved the interests of private concerns owned or controlled by them or by their relations, was definitely not in keeping with the normal standards of public conduct”.

Determined agitation

This design failed to dissuade people from their determination to see Biju and Biren ousted from the positions of power they were using to fleece from public exchequer. This determined agitation of the people forced the central leadership of Congress to ask Biju to resign from the chairmanship of the State Planning Board and his protege Biren from Chief-ministership. Biju resigned from the Planning Board chairmanship on January 29, 1965 and Biren from Chief-ministership about a month later on February 20. Shastriji appealed the people through the Lok Sabha on February 22 to “allow” this matter “to end” as both “Sri Biren Mitra and Sri Patnaik have already tendered their resignations”.

Punishment by the people

People of Orissa punished Biju Patnaik by rejecting him in all the five constituencies he contested in 1967 and also the Congress Party for having not punished Biju Patnaik.

The greatest beneficiary of people’s rejection of Biju Patnaik was R. N. Singhdeo, who headed a coalition with Jana Congress, formed by Congress members opposed to Biju.

Singhdeo appointed a Judicial Commission of Enquiry headed by Justice H. R. Khanna to inquire into and report on the charges against Patnaik and others.

Justice Khanna denounced Biju

In his report submitted on January 15, 1969, Justice H. R. Khanna denounced Biju as a morally corrupt fellow, as he was found to have used his chief-ministerial position to serve “the pecuniary and business interests of the companies, which had been started by him and with which his family members were associated” to such condemnable extent that “within two or three years of his stewardship his public image became tarnished and the hopes which were built around him were shattered to pieces”.

Scope yet to come

The ongoing CBI enquiry into chit fund scam in the regime of Naveen Patnaik offers a tremendous scope to study the syndrome in context of commonality between the father and the son in the zone of achieving personal benefits through power of governance.

Bar cannot mar the manners of Law: Motherland is more important than a man

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

It is sad that Orissa High Court Bar Association has resorted to cease-work in protest against arrest of Advocate General Asok Mohanty in incumbency till summoned to answer CBI on his connection with chit fund fraudster Pradeep Sethy.

In the breaking animadversion on the subject that came to public attention under its caption ‘Judicial Enquiry Essential to determine if Justice Laxmikant Mohapatra did not act a conduit for a chit fund mafia‘, for the first time in orissa’s news media views, much ahead of emergence of CBI on the scene, Mohanty was shown as a vertex in the triangle of a scam over a CDA plot, which finally has landed him in judicial custody after rejection of his bail petition.

His preliminary confrontation with suspicion on his property deal with the chit fund cheat, subsequent formal arrest by CBI, interrogation, production before the CBI court, further interrogation under remand and restaging in judicial custody on rejection of his heard bail petition are sequences logically developed under the manners of law.

Hence the Bar Association protest against CBI action is nothing but an attempt to mar the manners of law.

The striking similarity between ruling party MP Bhartruhari Mahtab and the High Court Bar in matter of condemning the CBI over arrest of Mohanty is indicative of two purposes. One, as in case of Mahtab, to demoralize the CBI and confuse the general public to cultivate an escape route for Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, so that people get diverted from catching him in his very own cocoon of corruption and misrule; and two, as in case of lawyers, to exceed each other in pleasing the CM in a yet undefined design to grab the Advocate General post as it is bound to be filled up soon, where the CM’s preference and prerogative is de facto final.

Alert people of Orissa should take note of it and do everything to encourage the CBI to bring to books all the traitors.

No man is more important than the motherland.