Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 18:
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has demolished what was easily among the most enduring myths about himself: that he does not give a damn to the Baba types.
Even as allegations of land grab keep piling up against disgraced self-styled godman Sarathi Baba with each passing day comes the revelation that the Chief Minister personally decreed that a piece of valuable land measuring 34 decimals (340 decimals in the bizarre system followed in the state capital) in Shampur Mouza on the outskirts of the city encroached upon by another Baba – policeman turned godman Abhiram Baba – is regularised and allotted in the Baba’s name. This after eviction proceedings had already been initiated against the ashram.
[The ashram site abhiramsaraswati.com describes the encroacher as the “sweetly called Baba (Abhiram Baba) “who is a “self-realized saint from Orissa”. But what it does not say is before becoming “His Holiness”, Abhiram Baba was Abhiram Mohapatra, a policeman. The circumstances under which he left the police and became a ‘self-realized saint’, however, are not clear.]
In a big expose made this evening, Zee Kalinga showed how the Chief Minister reneged on commitments made on the floor of the Odisha Assembly – not once, but thrice – to free the land of encroachment and bring it back into the control of the General Administration (GA) department which he heads.
In a reply to a question by then Malkangiri MLA Nimai Sarkar on December 20, 2004, Patnaik admitted that the land was under encroachment by Maha Aananta Ashram set up by Abhiram Baba and promised that steps were being taken to evict the encroacher from the land.
The Chief Minister repeated the same assurance on two more occasions the next year – in response to a question asked by current leader of opposition Narasingha Mishra.
But in a decision that turned the assurance on its head, the Chief Minister personally ordered that the said piece of land be regularised in the name of the Maha Aananta Ashram, the front that the Baba created to grab the land.
Zee Kalinga produced documents showing that the Chief Minister issued the order in May, 2009 despite the fact that the concerned file put up before him had clearly said that eviction proceedings had been initiated under the Odisha Public Premises (OPP) Act against the ashram.
Lawyer and senior BJP leader Suresh Pujari pointed out that once an eviction proceeding, a semi-judicial process, has been initiated, ‘no one, not even the President of India has the right to override it’. He said it is a ‘fit case’ for a case to be registered against the CM under Sec 120 B (criminal conspiracy).
“Now we know why the Chief Minister kept land allotted by the General Administration department out of the purview of the inquiry while setting up the Task Force headed by former Revenue secretary Taradatt to probe land and flats allocated under the discretionary quota. And this is not the only one. The most dubious allotments in Bhubaneswar have, in fact, been done by the GA department which the Chief Minister heads,” said activist Biswajit Mohanty participating in a discussion on the issue on Zee.
Prominent RTI activist Pradip Pradhan said the encroachers in the state are encouraged by the fact that part of the land on which Naveen Nivas (the Chief Minister’s residence) stands is encroached land. “They know that the government cannot act against them since the Chief Minister himself has encroached land,” he said.
In a tame attempt to defend his leader, Bari MLA and senior BJD leader Debashish Nayak said if some irregularities had been committed, ‘action will be taken by the Chief Minister as he has done in all such cases” without realising that it would mean acting against himself in this case!
Unfortunately for Naveen, however, he cannot wriggle out of the current mess by finding a sacrificial goat – as he has always done whenever cornered on an issue – because it was he who personally signed the order regularising the encroached prime and in the name of the ashram.