People of Orissa are in Quandary, No Doubt

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Super supremo of Ruling BJD, Pyari Mohan Mohapatra, in an interview to OTv, on the occasion of 14th foundation day of his party yesterday, has claimed that it would stay in power for the next 15 years in Orissa. Why 15, not 20 years?

The way Orissa’s mineral wealth is being looted under the umbrage of administration and squandered away by the government itself, ever since Navin Patnaik of BJD has taken over as Chief Minister, meteorologists and scientists of relevance are sure that the State shall be totally denuded of its stock within 15 years from now. And, the way Orissa has been led into the grip of non-Oriya land-grabbers; there should be no land to lease out after 10 years from now.

So, naturally after 15 years from now, if the BJD stays in power till then, Orissa shall have no natural resources to loot. There shall be nothing in Orissa to feed the power vultures any further. And naturally it should have no attraction for BJD after 15 years.

How could Mohapatra be so sure of occupying power for next 15 years in Orissa despite under Navin the plundered province has earned the ignominy of being viewed as the most wretched amongst all the States in the den of poverty in India?

Are the people of Orissa such idiots that BJD will continue in power for next 15 years? No, they are not the idiots.

In the last election they have wisely rejected the party of USA lobbyists, the Congress. In the last election, they have also rejected the party of profiteers, the BJP. They have bitterly punished the communists as, instead of initiating class war, their leaders have shown aptitude to ally with the agents of capitalism.

So, it cannot be said that Orissa citizenry has no ability to reject wrong doers.

But BJD is in power because both of its mainstream opponents – the Congress and the BJP – are so densely anti-people that rejection to BJD could have helped them and hence would have become more disastrous.

Mohapatra has composed his hope for BJD on this ground only and he knows, if his party stays in power for further 15 years, there shall be no mineral and natural wealth left in Orissa to allure the pack of his feather any more into electoral politics. This is why his stress is on 15 years from now; not on 20.

And, if EVMs are not discarded or tampering thereof is not made impossible, any combine of criminals donning attires of political parties, may occupy power sans support of the people.

So, BJD can continue in forming governments in Orissa till her entire mineral and natural resources are exhausted, which may take 15 years in the present speed of plunder.

People of Orissa are in quandary, no doubt.

Assembly Suffers Abortion of the Session As Opposition Unveils Corruption

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Hon’ble Speaker of Orissa Legislative Assembly allowed the Government an abrupt abortion of its winter session as the Opposition was seen determined to unveil corruption in mining and land grabbing by the mafia during continuous incumbency of Chief Minister Navin Patnaik.

To layman’s comprehension, Navin is not accepting the Opposition demand for a CBI inquiry into the ongoing loot of Orissa mines lest the corruption comes out.

But what the State Vigilance has disclosed to have discovered is no less than description of unprecedented loot, even though the volumes thereof estimated by the official agency looks like mere tip of the iceberg.

No wonder, premature termination of the session was the only option readily available to the Government to escape.

VIGILANCE SHOULD TELL IF NAVIN IS NOT INVOLVED

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The provincial Congress demand for CBI inquiry into illegal mining in Orissa is absolutely unacceptable, because the said organization has no spine to work honestly, as has already been established in the case against Quattrocchi. On the other hand, the Vigilance Police of Orissa has shown its ability to work as allegation of illegal mining in the State has been corroborated on the basis of its investigations, even though the mines it has made a cursory inquiry into, are quite marginal in number. Because of Orissa Vigilance, a group of officers including the Director of Mines is suspended under charges of involvement with the offense. So, it would be wrong not to rely upon Orissa Vigilance in the instant matter.

But instead of telling who is looting Orissa mines, the Vigilance Police would do better by telling if Chief Minister Navin Patnaik is not involved with the loot. Motherland is more important than the ruler, the sleuths and officers should remember.

Ores worth how many thousand crores of Rupees are looted according to Vigilance is not important at the moment. Important is, revelation of the details of the facilitator(s) of the loot. This revelation is needed for better management of democracy and the Orissa Vigilance Police is capable of fulfilling this need.

The Vigilance wing knows and we also know that it has raided a very small number of mines for an instant assessment of the loot. But the State Government has suspended operations in 128 mines and cancelled 482 trading licenses.

Why the Government has suspended operations in 128 mines and cancelled 482 trading licenses? The answer is very simple. To the knowledge of the State Government they are involved with illegal mining.

When the Vigilance has not spotted them all, how the Government could know that they are involved with illegal mining?

This question prompts us to assume that the State Government does not need to know of the looters through Vigilance Police, because it knows who the illegal operators are.

So, suspension of operations in 128 mines and cancellation of 482 trading licenses are based on the Government’s own knowledge of illegal mining activities of these operators.

How could illegal mining operators mushroomed to such high dimension so swiftly and so safely and why had the Government not taken any earlier action against them?

We need the answer to this question from the Vigilance. We expect that Chief Minister Navin Patnaik should come forward with the answer if he is not involved with this loot. If he does not come out with the answer, it should be the duty of the Vigilance Police to tell the people the truth.

It is not inappropriate to recall how Navin had figured in then Union Minister of State for Environment Dilip Singh Judeo’s bribe taking picture, when, before a spy cam, in the mouth of his personal assistant Natwar Rateria, a mines-monger from a foreign land was assured of smooth grabbing of mines in Orissa. “Orissa mein tasalli banayon. Jo chahenge voh hoga” (Celebrate your scope in Orissa. Whatever we want will happen there). How could Judeo be so sure? As Rateria hinted to, that was because of mutual cooperation between Judeo and Navin, which had helped the latter to bag 9000 crores of Rupees out of environmental clearance granted to mines operators. The dialogue delivered through Rateria, embarrassing to Orissa but relevant to the issue at hand, is, “Orissa mein bhi ………… apna kafi command hai… Nau hazaar (9,000) crore ki relief Naveen Patnaik ko apne mantralay ke project se… us se kuch bhi karva sekte hain”. (We have sufficient influence over Orissa as by granting environmental clearance to mining projects we have helped Navin Patnaik pocket 9000 crores of Rupees. We can make him do anything.) “… Naveen Patnaik ka jab bhi koi baat padegi, ek minute mein karva denge. Apne pehle aahsaan hain uske upar hai. Aur relationship bhi badi purani hai”. (Whenever you need work done from Naveen Patnaik, we can get it done in a minute. He is already indebted to us and our relationship is quite old.)

These were the dialogues on records that had shaken the country in August 2006 so much that Judeo was forced to resign from the Vajpayee ministry. But neither the Central Government under Vajpayee whose Ministry of Environment was misused for benefit of illegal mines operators nor the State Government of Orissa whose Chief Minister was thus named to have gained Rs.9000 crores from mines operators with the help of Judeo, took any step to establish that the assertions caught by spy cam were baseless and incorrect. This has kept the allegation alive and erect, though under layers of the dusts of time.

But time has exposed the enormity of illegality and corruption in management of mines in Orissa.

Therefore it is time, the Vigilance Police, if they are true to their salt, should investigate truthfully into every aspect of the mining scam and say if the Chief Minister Navin Patnaik is not involved with this. As we have watched, his henchmen have held the portfolio of mines in all these years and such enormous illegal activities by the mines mafia could not have run so safely for such a long period sans cooperation of the ministers concerned and the Chief Minister.

Modus operandi of Ministers, specifically the Chief Minister in helping mines mafia for payola or bribe, call it as you like, is a long experienced reality in Orissa.

As far back as on 14th July 1963, when Navin’s father Biju Patnaik was the Chief Minister of Orissa, an ever revered leader of matchless patriotism, late Nabakrishna Chowdhury had exposed the nexus between the political boss of the State and the mine owners.

Speaking at Gandhi Tattwa Prachar Kendra, Balasore, he had shown how huge money was being collected from mine owners / operators in the name of election funds by providing them with official support to fetch more profit by exploiting Orissa mines even as most of the funds so collected in name of the party was being misappropriated by the top leader and his close associates.

Taking the cue, journalist G.S.Bhargava had enumerated Biju’s unholy connection with the mines mafia and his other corruptions in the Indian Express in July 1964.

As Biju had tried to hoodwink the people by instituting a damage case against Bhargava, the people of Orissa had raised such a sharp and severe mass movement demanding his resignation that ultimately he had to be thwarted out of power. His case against Bhargava did not retain focus and was abandoned.

Like Biju, his mentor Harekrishna Mahtab was also marked for having personally gained by granting favor to exploiters of Orissa mines.

Justice Mudholkar in his fact-finding report had noted that Mahtab’s role in grant of lease of chromite mines to Md. Serajuddin in 1957 vis-à-vis his rapid acquisition of wealth between 1956 and 1960 read with his orders for withdrawal of criminal prosecution against ten iron and steel dealers were suggestive of corrupt practices.

When on Mudholkar’s recommendations, a judicial commission of inquiry was instituted with Justice Saraju Prasad in the Chair, Mahtab tried to obstruct its proceedings. The report of Prasad is full of evidences of evasive tactics used by Mahtab. Had a subsequent State Government not preferred not to press on prosecution against him in view of his old age, judiciary could have punished him for his grave offences against the State that he had committed in order to please the mines mafia.

So, Chief Ministers of Orissa serving the underworld in mining sector for personal monetary gains is not new and Navin Patnaik is a Chief Minister.

By suspending operations in 128 mines and canceling 482 licenses granted for trading and storage of minerals, the State Government has conversely confessed that till it decided to take this step, these illegal activities were going on without obstruction within its full knowledge. In fact, this step would never have been taken had Navin not been alarmed by the exposure spearheaded by BJP, his ally of yesterday, who are supposed to have known much more of mining corruption as the partners in previous two consecutive ministries. To save his skin, he may take further such steps and press vigilance to inquire into more mines. That does not and should not indicate that he is not personally involved.

To Navin, Congress is not a problem. Because the Congress is the breeder and protector of the environment of corruption in this country.

This party of Quattrocchi protectors has planted Dr.Man Mohan Singh, the father of India’s decadence into the Augean Stables of loot and treachery that has helped emergence of not only Harshad Mehtas and Ambanis but also has served the Pakistani Bank of Terror funding, BCCI with official support and even after it collapsed, has kept its role in ruining India shielded from public eyes as the Prime Minister of India. Inheriting by default the party of the founders of Indian democracy, the present Congress party has already been transformed by Sonia-Singh combine into a lunching pad of American interest and therefore, Navin in who POSCO and the likes see their staunch supporter, has nothing to fear from this party. Its role in the Assembly over the mining issue in the preceding couple of days confirms this aspect..

This is why there is no possibility of knowing the political components of the mines loot unless the Vigilance unveils who of the politicians in power has or have helped the mafia in this matter so far. Wrongs in democracy cannot be corrected if the real culprit is not dragged out of its political cocoon into public gaze.

Vigilance officers are our beloved countrymen with no less patriotism than what their political bosses claim to be having. They should, therefore, act honestly and help our democracy survive the onslaught by telling us through truthful investigation, if Navin is not involved in facilitating the mines loot.

When the principal opposition party’s role is dubious, the Vigilance wing, in the instant case, will be viewed as the last hope or the lost hope.

NORM SHOULD BE BAIL ON APPEAL, NOT ON ANTICIPATION

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Laws of the land have made all triable offenses bailable. Offenses shown as non-bailable are also bailable at certain stages if the appropriate courts are moved by the accused person(s). So in granting bails to the alleged looters of Orissa mines, the concerned judge of Orissa High Court cannot be said to have acted ultra vires.

But when bails are granted to a gang of suspected scamsters, who, in Vigilance Director’s informed opinion, are involved in loot of Orissa mines, it somehow looks bizarre and makes one feel that there should be restriction on grant of bail on anticipation in the Higher Courts.

The issue at the crux is that the High Court of Orissa has granted bails to a gang of eight persons – seven officials and one private operator – all accused by the State Vigilance Police of involvement in loot of Orissa mines and remanded to judicial custody by an interim order of a Chief Judicial Magistrate, over and above anticipatory bail granted earlier to a private operator and de facto bail granted later to the Director of Mines.

According to the Director of Vigilance Sri Aup Patnaik, his sleuths have got materials that are indicative of involvement of these fellows in the mines scam.

This accusation is so very severe and the loot of Orissa’s mines is so very discernible that peoples feel, had the High Court not granted bails before at least the designated vigilance court goes through the charge-sheet(s) and cogitates if grant or denial of bail would be fair and proper, it would not have been violative of justice or detrimental to the dignity of the Higher Judiciary.

The Jails are overcrowded with under-trial prisoners simply because, bails are denied to so many accused persons in this land.

Denial of bail to the accused for very long time in appropriate courts, even in the High Courts as well as in the Supreme Court of India is not rare.

Not rare even instances of quashing of bails granted in lower courts when appealed in the higher courts.

The Orissa High Court has umpteen times refused to grant bails, even on appeals, holding the concerned cases “grievous”. Are the offenses against the State perpetrated allegedly by the gang that the Vigilance Police has spotted to have committed loot of Orissa mines not grievous?

How should one read the prompt grant of bails to the said gang that has obviously acted against the State by being involved in loot of Orissa mines, in the words at least of a man who heads the Vigilance Police of the Province, is something that baffles the public.

Silence of Chief Minister Navin Patnaik of Orissa over enlargement of these accused persons on bail has made the matter murkier.

His government is marked as a habitual litigant for having no hesitation in dragging the poor employees to the Supreme Court as and when any of them gets an award in his / her favour in the Administrative Tribunal or in the High Court.

So the Government’s silence over grant of bails to all the accused looters of Orissa mines makes one suspect that the government was clandestinely in favor of the bails so granted.

This, when read with the bails really granted by a judge of Orissa High Court, makes one wish that there should not be any scope for any judge of any high court or of the supreme court to allow any accused or suspected offender any anticipatory bail till the alleged offender exhausts the appropriate lower court in the matter of application for bail.

If allegations are so apparently motivated and the accusing authorities are so discernibly prejudiced or set to cook up the allegations that, unless promptly protected, an innocent person may be injured due to time consuming adjudication in the lower stair, then only the higher court should step in and allow bails with a speaking order as to why it thought it prudent to grant the bails bypassing the designated court of hearing. Otherwise, peoples privileged with power and position and purses and resources to engage wielders of legal jargon in their support, will always succeed in hoodwinking the State.

In the instant case the bailed out persons are obviously enjoying Chief Minister Navin Patnaik’s patronage. Otherwise, the State Government would certainly have gone to the Supreme Court seeking quashing of the bails granted to the gang.

So, it can be said that the bailed out persons are such well connected persons that, if they like, they can tamper with documents yet to be relied upon by the Vigilance Police and tame the time to their own advantage in such a way that prosecution may ultimately fail to prove the points.

On the other hand, as is natural, the Vigilance Police, if not making a drama of raids and raising of accusations against the gang to keep the real culprit out of public gaze, would feel demoralized over the grant of bails to the accused gang inasmuch as this action is capable of being read as judicial rejection of the Vigilance claim of prima facie proof of involvement of the gang in the mines scam.

It is a serious phenomenon the judiciary should ponder over.

It would be better if the Orissa High Court or the Supreme Court make a review of the bail-orders that have set free the mines scamsters, as the Vigilance Police, if it is not acting as the CM desires but working as ethics dictate, may be feeling demoralized over the debacle at the beginning of the case and the same feeling may continue to affect the sleuths who so painstakingly have unearthed the scam so far.

The accused gang whose involvement in the crime against the peoples of Orissa in particular and of India in general has prima facie been seen by the Vigilance Police through perusal of documents seized and on spot visit and verification, should be subjected to the jurisdiction of Vigilance Courts and if bails are denied to them there, then only let them come in appeal for bail afresh. Unless the accusation seems cooked up and the accusing investigators appear infested with ill motive and the judge in the appropriate lower court looks vitiated with prejudice against the said offenders, the High Court should not grant bails to the offenders.

The higher judiciary should appreciate that it is too precious to be used by officially located offenders to obtain anticipatory bails in any case. In the interest of the sovereignty of the peoples, justice system should not be allowed to make mockery of justice at any point of time, anywhere by imposing its orders on lower courts before they even peruse the charges.

Bail on appeal, not on anticipation should be the guiding norm.

LOOT OF ORISSA MINES: NAVIN SHOULD SUBJECT HIMSELF TO INQUIRY OR QUIT

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Chief Minister Navin Patnaik should subject himself to a Judicial Commission of Inquiry or quit over the discernible loot of Orissa Mines, a sample of which, estimated to be of Rs. 4,000 Crores money value, has come to limelight in course of Assembly debates.

The House was adjourned record 9 times on July 10 as the Opposition, on unveiling of the loot by the leader of BJP Legislative wing, K.V.Singhdeo, with convincing proof, consolidated its demand for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation. One is at a loss to understand why the Government is shying at the CBI. It is intriguing that the government is not willing to inquire into the matter even by a House committee.

The loot highlighted involves only a single spot in Keonjhar spanning 9 years. In other words, the loot is going on during last 9 years under Chief Ministership of Navin Patnaik.

And, who is allegedly the looter? A non-Oriya firm by name Ram Bahadur Thakur Ltd (RBTL).

Mines Minister Raghunath Mohanty’s assertion that there is no question of loot as the lease granted to RBTL over 96.568 Hectares in Rugudi, Rutukela and Katasahi under Joda Mines Circle (JMC) is lying idle due to non-availability of forest clearance certificate as yet, is a clear lie. A team of Legislators accompanied by eminent public figures has made a spot visit and has come out with evidences that the concerned land is under active manganese mining by RBTL. When the Opposition linked the 34 truckloads of manganese being smuggled out from JMC seized at Khurda recently to this illegal mining, the Minister admitted that the seized manganese was from JMC but refused to accept the Opposition allegation under a technical plea that the matter is subjudice under the High Court.

Had the Chief Minister no role in loot of Orissa mines, he could have reviewed the scenario in the light of the Supreme Court’s May 8 ban on mining in Aravalli hill range, which has been cited in these pages on May 15. But he has not wanted to educate himself with help of the well researched verdict of the Supreme Court in the matter of mining management sans any threat to eco-system of the State. He wants us to suspect that ministers and functionaries might have made any mistake, not he.

Is it not the time for him to appreciate that if he does not take action against the minister (s), present and past, in charge of mines in his cabinet and subject the Secretary (Secretaries) and Director (s), present and past, of Mines to discernible disciplinary action readily and in retrospect, peoples will have no doubt that it is he, who is the culprit?

I do not know how can he erase the public suspicion that looters of Orissa Mines have his patronization.

He alone knows whether or not he is guilty of this treachery against the State. To erase the public suspicion, he should instantly appoint a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate into all the mining by looters or leaseholders during his regime to find out if, as the Chief Minister, he has any reason to be blamed for that.

PRECEDENCE

Orissa has a brilliant and unique precedence of a Chief Minister having subjected himself to a Commission of Inquiry. Let us look at that.

When Biju Patnaik was the Chief Minister of Orissa, he had infested the administration with so much corruption that it was unbearable on part of the peoples to tolerate him.

As public agitation against his continuance in office could not be suppressed, he had to resign. But the Congress Government in the Center shielded him through a Cabinet Sub-Committee despite CBI having concluded that he was prima facie guilty of corrupt practices.

With such a finding of CBI, a Judicial Commission of Inquiry was a must under the Central Government Circular then in force.

But the Congress party being in power at the Center, had tried to protect Biju from Law by preferring a review of the CBI report through a Cabinet Sub-Committee. Biju having resigned from CM post in 1963 to escape public wrath had somewhat stayed in the power corridor by grabbing Chairmanship of the State Planning Board. He was made to resign from this position on 29 January 1965. And, the Cabinet Sub-Committee that had members gained over by Biju tried to save him by refusing to recommend for a Judicial Commission of Inquiry despite the CBI findings. Through Atulya Ghosh, he had pressurized Prime Minister Shastri so much that two days after his resignation, he had to urge upon the Loksabha to ignore the Biju scandal. “Sri Biren Mitra and Sri Patnaik have already tendered their resignations. I would appeal to you that this matter be allowed to end there”, Shastri had requested the Loksabha.

Massive majority of Congress in the Loksabha was thus used to protect Biju. But when for this very reason of protecting the corrupt Biju Patnaik, the peoples of Orissa rejected the Congress in 1967 General Elections and a non-Congress Government under R.N.Singhdeo took over, the immediate work of the new Government was to appoint a Judicial Commission of Inquiry with Justice H.R.Khanna in the chair to inquire into corruption alleged against Biju and his associates.

Justice Khanna observed that it was quite deplorable that Patnaik should have “ allowed such a sway to the pecuniary and business interest of the companies, which had been started by him and with which his family members were associated in dealing with the State Government, 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. Memorials and representations, some of them not without substance, were submitted against him. The architect of party victory in 1961 lost even his own election in 1967. The fall of Sri Patnaik was not merely a loss for himself, it was a shock and disenchantment for the people who had pinned their hopes and reposed their confidence in him and with that had linked the future of Orissa”.

However, as the Singhdeo Government was setting up the Khanna Commission against Biju and his acolytes that ruled over Orissa from 1961 to 1967, Sadasiv Tripathy by then reduced from the CM position to leader of Opposition, had demanded that there should be inquiry into conduct of Harekrishna Mahtab and R.N.Singhdeo, whose role as CM and Deputy CM respectively in an earlier coalition of Congress and Ganatantra Parisad was not above board.

Confronted with this by the then Union Home Minister Y.B.Chavan, Singhdeo replied that though he does not find any prima facie substance in any of Tripaty’s allegations, in interest of integrity in public life, the matter may be examined by a person of top judicial standing.

Chavan wrote back to Singhdeo that he should dispose off the matter as prudence entails.

Singhdeo appointed Justice J.R.Mudholkar, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India, though off the Commission of Inquiry Act, to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the allegations raised by Tripathy.

This was in fact a Commission of Inquiry to find out prima facie substance, if any, in allegations against persons holding ministerial office in Orissa during the period from 1948 to 1961 that included also R.N.Singhdeo himself, as he was Deputy CM in Congress-GP coalition ministry. In other words, Singhdeo had appointed this Commission against himself in order to ensure that in a democracy there should be no room for any doubt over the conduct of the CM or any minister.

In mining matters, Navin Patnaik Government has earned so much suspicion that it is better for him to come out from the room of doubt as expeditiously as possible. The instant event that has forced the Assembly into as many as 9 adjournments on July 10 is a fit case to remind him of the precedence created by Singhdeo.

It is proper for him to subject himself to a Judicial Commission of Inquiry or else to quit his position before preferring any agency other than judiciary to conduct any inquiry into loot of the mines so that the same could seem to be free of his direct influence.

Anything less would further harm the State.