Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Apr 7:
The Odisha government led by the bountiful Naveen Patnaik has been living faithfully by the old adage in Hindi – Sarkaar ka Maal, Dariya Mein Daal (“When it is government money, You are free to throw it into the sea”).
A tribal girl may be forced to commit suicide here for no better reason than the failure of the administration to release her stipend in time. But if you are someone in the good books of the benevolent monarch, the government can shower crores on you for no particular reason – no questions asked.
An RTI query by (who else) Pradip Pradhan has revealed that the Odisha government has already paid Rs 3.88 crores to Eleeanora Images Pvt. Ltd, headed by “I am Kalam” fame filmmaker Nilamadhab Panda, out of the Rs 5.85 crores originally committed in July, 2013 for what it calls a ‘public awareness campaign’ on electricity.
The decision to award this ‘campaign’ to Panda was taken by a Committee on Odisha Power Sector Media Campaign constituted by Central Electricity Supply Utility (CESU), a government PSU, at its meeting held on July 2, 2013, the CESU PIO revealed in his reply to the RTI query on March 26, 2015.
The reply, however, does not make it clear whether this grandiosely named committee was ‘constituted’ only for this purpose or is a permanent body. Nor does it reveal if there were others who were also considered before the committee zeroed in on Panda.
By way of justification, the committee pointed to the high loss of electricity in the state due to consumers resorting to drawing more power than their contract demand, power theft and non-payment of energy bills.
The campaign apparently intended to ‘achieve a big shift in the consumer behaviour towards these issues’ and ‘create public opinion against power theft and non-payment making them more proactive towards the utility’.
As per the terms of reference (ToR), the deliverables included:
- TV- 260 SPOTS each in 5 top popular vernacular channels of Odisha (totalling to (sic) 1300 TV spots in all)
- Radio-1280 spots each in 2 top FM stations and All India Radio network in Odisha (totalling to 2560 Radio Spots in 2 FM Stations in all and 8960 Radio Spots in AIR in all ).
- Print-15 insertions each in 3 leading Odia dailies and 2 national English dailies (totalling to 75 insertions across 5 publications in all )
- Outdoor-55 hoardings and 5000 wall paintings all over the state
- PR & Media coverage –sustained through the campaign
- Events- 1000 road shows and 5000 school shows all over the state.
Since the campaign was presumably launched on August 1, 2013, one assumes that the deliverables have been delivered by now.
But hold your breath. The government has no record of the material developed and disseminated. In reply to the petitioner’s request for copies of the campaign material developed, the PIO simply said ‘not available with CESU’.
What it means is that the government has released close to Rs 4 crore to a private company without ever bothering to see what kind of material has been developed by the company – and even whether any material has been developed at all!
When the agency that has given the contract does not have the copies of the work done, it is obviously futile to ask if these materials – assuming that they have indeed been developed – met the standards stipulated in the contract and had been published/broadcast in the forums committed the number of times promised.
There is no record of any monitoring to find out the impact, if any, of the ‘awareness campaign’ in terms of reduction in power theft either.
The Naveen Patnaik government’s benevolence for Panda is not restricted to this one contract. Perhaps impressed by the quality of the work delivered by the eminent filmmaker (though it has no copies to show for it), it has now given another contract – this time from the Culture department’s coffers – for Rs 2 crores for a film on the Nabakalebara.
While no one is questioning Panda’s credentials as a filmmaker, the principles of ‘transparency’ that the Naveen Patnaik government swears by demand that such a contract must be above board and given through an open and transparent process that leaves no room for doubt or insinuation.
And the principle of fairplay demands that the scores of talented filmmakers in the state, many of them graduates of the FTII, get a chance to vie for this prestigious project.
While individual assessment of film maker is a subjective matter, a contract like this cannot obviously be given out on individual whimsy. After all, it is public money.
But try telling that to The Emperor.