Sunday, March 26th, 2023 06:01:56

The Ghost Of Lokpal Haunts Naveen

Updated: August 20, 2011 12:06 pm

The woes of the Naveen Patnaik government have been persistent since he took oath in his third term. The last two years have been turbulent times for him and his party. One scam after the other, strictures from the Lokpal, the High Court, the Human Rights Commission, besides the flak he has to face from the opposition and his own partymen. The latest that has hit him seems to be the resignation of BS Yeddyurappa after the Lokpal report submitted by Justice Hegde. The Naveen Patnaik government in Odisha is now in the dock and seems to be heading for a similar trouble over its alleged non-compliance of Lokpal recommendations and the harsh observations that were given to his government.

                This fact did not register in the opposition camp in the initial days of the Karnataka hullabaloo, but the state BJP and the Congress units have both woken up and are now baying for blood.

                The first move was made by a veteran trade union leader Dwarika Mohan Mishra, who petitioned the Governor MC Bhandare’s for sanctioning the prosecuting of the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on the findings of Lokpal report in the irregularities committed while acquiring land for Vedanta University in Puri.

                Lokpal Justice PK Patra had earlier submitted a report to the government on March 17, 2010, over the ‘illegal’ land acquisition for the Rs 15,000 crore university project by Anil Agarwal Foundation, a sister concern of the Vedanta Group. He had recommended action against some bureaucrats in the Chief Minister’s Office who had allegedly violated laws to favour the project’s promoters. He also sought action against the public servant who allegedly forged documents and misrepresented the facts with fraudulent intention.

                Apparently displeased with the wishy-washy Action Taken Report submitted to the Lokpal in June 2010, Justice Patra had once again sent a special report to Governor Bhandare on May 3 this year. There were scathing remarks and in his strongly worded report he made the observation that state government had given a completely unsatisfactory compliance of its recommendation regarding serious violations of law in acquisition of land for proposed Vedanta University.

                “The compliance report is completely unsatisfactory and evasive since none of the nine recommendations made by me has been complied with and on the contrary, it is stated that there is no necessity to comply with any of the said recommendations,” Odisha Lokpal said in his special report.

                “In other words, the findings given by me on all points have been refuted which depicts ignorance of law by the authorities concerned,” the Lokpal said.

                The special report said, “If this is the attitude of the public servants concerned tantamount to defiance of the order of Lokpal, people of the state will not derive the benefits as contemplated under the statute.”

                It appears that in order to avoid the compliance of the order of the Lokpal, attempt has been made to explain away the findings in order and to justify the illegalities committed by the public servants concerned, the special report observed.

                Earlier the Odisha High Court had quashed land acquisition for the university project in November 2010 terming it illegal and directed the state government to return land to their owners. The state government had acquired 3495.21 acres of private land and leased out another 509.27 acres of government land to the company for the purpose.

                Rattled by attacks over a series of scams and charges of inefficiency against Naveen Patnaik, the ruling BJD leaders have thrown their weight behind the party president and Chief Minister to uphold his “clean image”. The entire Cabinet and ministers of the BJD have been on an overdrive mode for the last few months in cleaning up the tarred image of the Chief Minister. Earlier it was attributed to the expected Cabinet reshuffle, and the expectants were going overboard in singing paeans to their beloved Naveen Babu. The sycophant brigade is sickeningly all out in full form, hero-worshipping to the extent that even the Tamil leaders would be put to shame. On a visit to every small town or village, one will find life size cut-outs of the CM, a frozen smile, high pajamas, hands in an extended namaskar. In any rally, conclave or public meeting held by the BJD, more than half the time is taken up in singing high hosannas to the late Biju Babu and his illustrious son, who is apparently carrying the mantle forward.

                During the 95th birth anniversary of Biju Patnaik, held a few months ago, the BJD leaders, including ministers, virtually entered into a competition to shield the Chief Minister from opposition attacks.

                Describing Patnaik as a great “warrior” in politics, Pyari Mohapatra said that the Chief Minister’s strength was his popularity and clean image. “Opposition parties make malicious allegations against Patnaik and they will not succeed,” he said.

                Health and Family Welfare Minister Prasanna Acharya exhorted his party men to defeat the opposition attempt to tarnish the image of Patnaik over scams. “We must protect Abhimanyu (Naveen) from the attacks of Kauravs (Opposition),” Acharya said. Odisha is now Kurukshetra and the Mahabharata will be reenacted.

                The Odisha Governor must be having serious after thoughts on his inaction all these days. However, all said and done, the rumours are rife that Naveen is close to 10 Janpath and 7 Race Course. During his visit to Odisha last month, Rahul Gandhi almost gave a clean chit to Naveen Patnaik government in Odisha describing it as “less corrupt in comparison to Uttar Pradesh”. Governor Bhandare is a shrewd and astute man, who has been around the state and keeps tabs on all that is going on. He is very savvy and approachable and the opposition loses no time meeting him and handing over memorandums against the wrong-doings of the BJD government.

                According to legal experts the CM should be prosecuted under Section-19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988. Being a public servant, the Chief Minister was liable to criminal conspiracy and illegal transfer of land belonging to Lord Jagannath as well as private land in favour of Anil Agarwal Foundation for setting-up of the Vedanta University on Puri-Konark marine drive. The Chief Minister is also liable for commitment of criminal conspiracy and is liable to be prosecuted for preparing and manufacturing the forged documents knowing them to be forged and thereby misrepresenting the facts with the fraudulent intention of gaining and committing criminal breach of trust and cheating the people of Odisha at large.

                It was a common knowledge that many of his party men and favoured bureaucrats had grabbed sizeable chunks of land on the Puri-Konark road, expecting to make a windfall profit when the University would have come up. Some of them had even made boundary walls and this was in violation of the CRZ. In fact two months ago many such plots were razed to the ground, including that of a prominent BJD Member of Parliament who also runs a media house. Naveen’s blue-eyed boy, Baijayant Panda is now very cautious about his comments. While on a panel discussion on the Reddy brothers he treaded softly, as he too is an industrialist with interests in mining. It has to be seen if Naveen can buy his way out of this mess, providing the opposition takes up the issue in its fullest. Till now, both the Congress and the BJP have raked up scams after scams, but all of them have petered out, raising some serious questions in the minds of the populace. Naveen’s minions in the party and his bureaucrats will try to shoot their way out.

                It is rare to see that some people in Odisha still have the spine to tell the truth. The resistance of the common people of Puri, Niyamagiri, Dhinkia, Angul and Kalinganagar has inspired a class. It seems that the Naveen’s bureaucrats work for the Tatas, Jindals, POSCO and the Vedanta Group rather than that for the people of the state. Odisha is not under a democracy, it is under a corporate rule, one where government, justice, police and administration can be purchased.

By Anil Dhir from Bhubaneswar

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