CHANGE IN MEDIA STANCE REFLECTS LOSS OF PEOPLES’ CONFIDENCE IN ORISSA CM

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

If Chief Minister Navin Patnaik could be distinguished for any specific behavior that is his shying at the peoples of Orissa.

As is evidenced in his visit to Kandhamal on August 30, he could not dare to visit any village that perished under communal fire. To please his communal allies he visited the Hindutwa activist Laxmanananda’s murder spot and interacted with a very few persons who were clearly in Hindu fold; but he never dared to meet the vandalized villagers.

There were severe intracommunity conflicts at Koradagarh as high caste Hindus subjected low caste Hindus to atrocious hooliganism by obstructing their rights to worship Sri Jagannath even to the extent of contemptuously contravening High Court orders. Navin could not dare to reach the spot to inspire peoples to drop caste prejudices and to build up social solidarity.

His uniformed forces killed innocent tribal peoples in Kalinganagar as they were opposing industrialists like Tata taking over their mother-soil. He never dared to visit the families of the victims after the mayhem.

Peoples have been fighting for their mother-soil in Kujang Tahsil where foreign firm POSCO is using Orissa administration to grab their land. Peoples are fighting against acquisition of their mother-soil at Puri for handing over the same to non-Oriya Anil Agrawal. Peoples are also opposing the same land-grabber’s nefarious design at the foot of Niyamagiri. Seeking implementation of their birthright to get justice without difficulty the peoples of western Orissa have been agitating to have a division bench of the High Court in their portion of the State.

Like this everywhere peoples are feeling that they are abandoned by their state government and so, are fighting for their rights in their own ways.

As the leader of the State, Navin should have gone to their midst to have conversations with them, to acquaint himself with their problems personally in order to find out how they will not feel abandoned. But he has never.

This is simply because he knows that the aura of his-father’s-son-status that he and his cronies had dandled before the gullible people was too artificial to live long and has by now dwindled.

He knows peoples have lost their misconceived confidence in him and hence he is shying at them.

He has lost the confidence since long. But the media, specifically Oriya language media, propelled by plutocratic tentacles, has kept him erect in the political arena so far. To understand this phenomenon one needs to know the contemporary Oriya newspapers and their nexus.

Oriya language newspapers are mostly in right-wingers’ hands with a common creed of antagonism to communism. In other words, they are anti-progress. Navin’s obsessions with industry oblivious of the grief-struck-grassroots never seem to them as anti-people policies. He has a well-set nexus with them as the anti-progress practices these newspapers have adopted in search of advertisement revenue suits him most.

Most of the Oriya newspapers have given false and fabricated circulation figures that the government knows quite well.

Almost all of them are guilty of unfair labor practices and in no newspaper in Orissa, working journalists are paid with due wages.

Were the labor law implementation machinery being used against the newspaper owners, most of them might have been legally incarcerated. This has never happened.

There are journalists in Oriya newspaper organizations whose wealth is thousand times more than what they draw as salary. This illegitimate wealth accumulated by lead journalists of lead newspapers is generally generated by their nexus with economic offenders. Newspaper establishments know it, but they also know that the said journalists know the unholy nexus of their owners with the underworld and the packs of people in power. So, there is no action against any journalist on charge of corruption.

Concealment of wealth is a penal offense. For any wealth disproportionate to known source of income, the Laws have penal provisions. But Laws are rendered inoperative in matter of illicit wealth accumulation by media persons.

The vigilance wing of state police can intervene and unveil disproportionate wealth and subject the offender to prosecution. Vigilance police knows who of the Orissan journalists have wealth hundredth or thousandth time more than their legitimate income. But it has never dared to intervene, as it knows that journalists of this type know how corruption is going on in the vigilance organization itself.

Only last week, a low rank engineer, who has been working in the vigilance organization for about two decades, has, due to a whistle-blower, been discovered as a man of crores, which, in terms of money exceeds his legitimate income by hundred times. This accumulation was going on when the present Director General of Police was the Director of vigilance. Only an idiot can accept that this was going on without the knowledge of vigilance department. If the vigilance police claim to be ignorant of this corruption, then it is to admit that the organization is not vigilant. What a shame!

Lest the shame exposed, the vigilance police have never tried to expose the newspapers and the journalists who they know have undisclosed wealth accumulated by way of misuse of professional power.

On the other hand, the IAS officers who are ruling the roost are having their agents in newspapers and amongst journalists. A close watch on them would lead to know that IAS officers in senior echelon have their preferred persons in Oriya media. They often work according to their advice. There is no official sanction for any IAS officer to have any journalist as his advisor. But visit any IAS officer in odd hours; you may see in his official chamber or in his residence a journalist whose rapport with the officer may make you astonished.

The rapport is not professional, but personal. The base is secret. You may use your imagination to any extent to find out the secret if you can, but be sure of one thing that such a journalist who enjoys no-bar-entry into the inner circle of a senior IAS officer acts as a conduit and is certainly a possessor of undisclosed wealth. .

Men who matter know how an officer after elevation to chief secretary rank had patronized a small group of journalists to bring out a daily newspaper and how this newspaper starting from the inaugural edition fetched crores of rupees from advertisement by help of the said officer. The vigilance police that are officially entitled to obstruct corruption never looked at this new phenomenon and never tried to know if the said officer was fetching undisclosed money under the cover of this newspaper. This may just be the tip of the nexus-iceberg.

A blatantly corrupt fellow placed in lift irrigation wing has been unveiled in a recent vigilance raid propelled by insistence of a whistle-blower as possessor of several crores of rupees. But this officer’s ability to practice corruption without attracting anybody’s attention was considered as an outstanding administrative ability by his controlling officers in the IAS echelon and therefore he was rewarded with promotion to IAS from OAS.

These are just instances. The whole gamut of administration in Orissa has become corrupt. A collective lootraj in active collaboration with unscrupulous lot amongst the journalists and lead newspapers is going on in Orissa in the regime of Navin Patnaik with stooges well placed in all nerve centers of administration.

Therefore, Navin and his officialdom enjoy a situation where they claim to be enjoying peoples’ confidence.

But the situation has started changing.

In every newspaper now-a-days most of the headlines show how Orissa is being duped and drowned under misrule. Every newspaper in almost every page is highlighting ongoing corruption and deficient administration.

For an instance we may look at certain headlines of selected newspapers Dated August 30 as on editions of this day, the news of ‘no’ to no-confidence motion against Navin was published.

Let me start with Khabar. This is the newest language daily of Orissa. BJD’s most powerful MP, Pyari Mohan Mohapatra off the records owns it. In a five-column photo-studded story captioned “Manisha Hata” (Human Market), it highlighted in its op-ed page how workers are distress-selling themselves when labor laws are freely contravened in the capital city of Bhubaneswar. It has many other reports on misrule in the same edition like the one under another five-column headline, “Faltering in highway repair causes 767 casualties in Khurda within three years”. Similarly, “Health services in disarray due to want of Doctors”, “Rs.2 per kg. Rice in Black-market” etc highlighted by Khabar are multi-column reports on misrule in Orissa. The daily, Dharitri, virtually owned by another BJD MP, Tathagat Satpathy, in a multi-column story exposed how clandestinely the state government has ordered for location of forestland to be handed over to POSCO to the predicament of local peoples agitating against allocation of their soil to the foreign firm.

When papers under virtual ownership of BJD MPs are thus eagerly highlighting the dark-side of Navin administration, the scenarios in other newspapers need no specific elaboration.

The visible shift in media stance is indicative of the fact that notwithstanding defeat of the no-confidence motion on August 29 in Orissa Assembly, Orissa media has grasped that peoples of the State have lost their confidence in chief minister Navin Patnaik and that is being reflected in the change in their stance.

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THE POGROM AND THE PREDICAMENT

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik is in a predicament over the Kalinga Nagar pogrom.

The relatives of the annihilated Adivasis (Tribal people) have refused on 23rd May 2006 to receive what the Government was prompting them to receive as the chopped off palms of five of their martyrs whom the State Police had killed on 2nd January 2006 to protect Tata interest at Kalinga Nagar in Jajpur District continue to show how inhuman could be a government under control of the rich.

These are not their palms. These do not look like their palms. Tell us which palm belongs to whom so that with that palm the last rituals of that man could be performed.

These are the words of the tribal people of Kalinga Nagar who are suspecting that the Government is trying to hoodwink them with palms cut off from some other corpses somewhere after the National Human Rights Commission asked Orissa administration to return the palms of the killed people for their last ritual.

This is a serious situation. The Adivasis have blocked the main road for around five months following the massacre. Spiritually superstitious to the core, they are unable to perform the last rites of the martyrs without their respective palms, which were cut off from their bodies by the State. And they cannot live in peace without performing the last rituals.

The question that refuses to subside is: why the palms of the massacred people were chopped off their bodies? The palms had no role in medico-legal investigation. We had a breaking analysis in these pages earlier. But the authorities have never thrown any light on the issue. Why the palms were cut off and in which way that helped the Law should have been placed before the people. But bureaucracy that masterminded the killing has never allowed this to happen. The possible reason is: it was not a massacre; it was an act of pogrom carried out with meticulous planning. Not only the palms of male members of the tribes were chopped off but also breasts of female members of the community on whose bodies post-mortem examinations were conducted were cut off. This must not have been done without any motive. And the motive could not have been anything other than transmitting a message to the tribal people that if they don’t cooperate, their future progeny would be threatened. Breasts of females symbolizing source of livelihood of the new born and hands of males symbolizing source of sustenance and protection, the message was formulated to terrify the tribal agitators who by birth and tradition rely upon symbols in every sphere of existence. Is it not indicative of a pogrom? The patrons of plutocracy in our officialdom, whose agents perpetrated this pogrom on experimental basis, are so shrewd that they have used Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik as such a shield that they would stay safe for ever by evading public gaze.

Mark the scenario. Naveen Patnaik has not killed anybody personally. When people were killed at Kalinga Nagar what should have been his reaction as a Chief Minister? As the leader of the people? He should have rushed to the spot, like he has visited hooch victims of Ganjam district so many times. But he has never gone to Kalinga Nagar till date. The bureaucracy has not advised the Chief Minister to personally visit the victimized people to assuage them as their leader. This has worsened the matter further; but as a result of his refusal to visit the spot, he has no first hand knowledge on what really has happened at Kalinga Nagar even as this is enough for general public to look at him with suspicion.

When he rose above Orissa’s political horizon, he had no political experience. The sycophants of late Biju Patnaik had prevailed upon him to accept their leadership.

These sycophants were with Biju Patnaik to derive personal gain, as minus Biju Patnaik they were non-entities in Orissa politics. After his demise they were political orphans. No political party was willing to adopt them. Therefore they had prompted Naveen Patnaik to join politics and by projecting him and rallying round him, they were sure to benefit.

After occupying power, Naveen slowly but steadily understood the foul game his colleagues were playing and therefore, instead of relying upon party colleagues, started relying upon the bureaucracy.

Taking advantage of this, a mischievous section of the bureaucracy has misled him into the trap of private capital from where it is now impossible for him to come out.

In the name of development of our people, his Government has been displacing them from their inherited lands and natural habitats.

He is now known more for his allegiance to industrialists than to people of Orissa. His Government is doing everything to handover Orissa’s mineral wealth to the industrial community without caring for the stake the future generation of the Oriyas should be having in it.

Mineral ores are not created in a day. The Nature has taken millions of years to create them. Orissa has a heavy stock of these ores of different groups over which our people and their heirs have the geographical right. A Government is to manage this right of the people and their heirs. And a Government is temporary. It is authorized by the people to manage their assets and affairs for a temporary period, say for five years. How can such a Government lease out all the mineral ores to private industries, mostly outsiders, to be exhausted within, say, twenty years? Heirs of the present generation of Oriyas shall also have Orissa as their motherland and shall also have the right to take advantage of the resources their motherland should be possessing. If the entire stock of mineral ores is exhausted by the present Government, it cannot but be termed as a treachery against our people.

Naveen Patnaik may not be personally and solely responsible for this treachery against the people. But whom to blame if Orissa has been, during his regime, reduced to a pleasure garden of non-Oriya operators whose sole aim is to exploit its human and natural resources?

To what extent Orissa has been pushed into this plutocratic trap can be judged from the conduct of Bhusan Steel. Its pet and procured goons opened fire on our people on 20th May 2006 at its plant site in Dhenkanal district fatally injuring as many as ten persons in an attempt to scare away the displaced and disadvantaged people who have been agitating against annexation even of their community burial ground and cattle grazing field by the said industry.

This incident has a striking similarity with the Kalinga Nagar incident. Local people at both the places have been brutally and deliberately shot at in order to suppress opposition to grabbing of their land and habitats by the Industries. But there is a difference between the strategies adopted in both the cases. In the first instance, Tata had used the State apparatus in perpetrating the pogrom against the agitating people. But as the government was thrashed threadbare in the Assembly for this criminal collaboration with the Tatas, a new strategy for using contractors and contract killers instead of magistrates and police has been evolved. Bhusan Steel’s use of Orissa Stevedores offers the first glimpse of experimentation of this strategy.

Thanks to the Collector of Dhenkanal, Ms. Usha Padhi, a lady officer of uncommon commitment to principles, Bhusan Steel’s unlawful activities have been somewhat exposed and some of the culprits who had shot at the people have been apprehended. But the State Government has not taken any action against Bhusan Steel, the main culprit, as yet.

People of Dhenkanal are deeply disturbed over absence of action against the Industry even though its unlawful activities are well known to the Government. Penal proceedings against hired goons would not be a punishment against Bhusan Steel. If Naveen is to show that his Government is more loyal to the people of Orissa than to private industries, the lease and license granted to Bhusan Steel should be forthwith withdrawn for proven offense against the people of Orissa and use of third party agencies for execution of any construction and/or operation of any factory or site by any industry should be banned with provisions for cancellation of the lease/license when this ban is contravened.

If Industries try to subjugate our people by using hired killers like this, Naveen Patnaik and his band of politicians as well as the shrewd bureaucrats who have more concern for industrialists than the people should do better by looking at Kalinga Nagar as a referral point.

There the State was used in a pogrom against poor Adivasis. But they have clamped a blockade on the road which the Government has not dared to interfere with even though about five long months have elapsed. The Government has tried to gain over them by offering a whooping sum of five lakhs of Rupees to each of the bereaved families. But, though in a condition of inanition, they have refused to receive the money. They may be absolutely illiterate. But to them between subjugation and a sum of Rupees five lakhs, the later carries no meaning.

It would be better if Naveen Patnaik and his band understand this peculiar mindset of rural Orissa. People of Orissa can sacrifice anything in order not to sacrifice their love for their soil.

As he does not know Oriya, he does not have a free interaction with the people of Orissa. Therefore, perhaps, he has failed to feel that he is being looked at askance for the eagerness he has shown so far for serving the interest of private industrialists.

Because of this, along with him, Orissa is also in a predicament.