By Dr. Ksh. Imokanta Singh
Sorry I am not affixing any photograph of mine for this sort of ‘Sengdokchaba’. What would my photo look like if I were to compulsorily enclose one in such ‘sengdokchaba’? As you guess, like the one you mostly come across in such clarifications in our local print media, my eyes downcast and my facial expression sullen, crouching on my haunches and of course with a blanket to cover my seen body portion. Reasons for such sengdokchaba: the news paper report on vigilance report recommending major penalty to 15 officers, submitted on the last day of the recently held legislative assembly session, which has my name in that. This has been necessitated for the very fundamental fact that I have the right to present my side of the story so that a balanced picture is opened to the reading public. This is more so after the Supreme Court of India recently opined, ‘We are a country of 128 crore people and there may be 128 crore views. This is the maturity of a democracy’.
I have the least interest in talking of an issue which was long ended, at least from my side, and less so in such medium as print media which are privately owned public fora. But washing one’s linen in public is a routine thing in our society and I do not claim to be an alien to this society where there is so much of confusion on which is private and which is public. So, may I present myself, delivering my story with all the props of facts and figures, without an ounce of ‘constructed’ or ‘imaginary’ plots.
The day was 27th of February, 2014 with cool wind breezing while I was standing in the verandah of my new home facing the historical and ‘Kamalical’ ‘Rasmandal pukhri’ (after Dr. Kamal’s mellifluous description of this pond in his much acclaimed novel ‘Madhabi’) of Canchipur. The much maligned mobile phone rang and my closest friend was on the other side informing with sheer anxiety that my name was mentioned in a news paper item on tabling of vigilance report in the assembly session. I could have been much agitated and ashamed had I been on the wrong side, but no, I was as cool as the breeze which had been blowing nonchalant outside. Then other calls from concerned friends and family followed which kept my phone aching and my wits dwindled trying to explain the reality again and again.
Most of the local dailies carried the news item with different headings on the front pages. The People’s Chronicle and Poknapham had headings as ‘State Vigilance Commission recommends penalty to 15 officers’ and ‘Officer 15 major penalty pinaba recommend toukhre’ respectively, the Imphal Free Press had ‘Vigilance commission report tabled’. Hueiyenlanpao, and Naharolgi Thoudang also carried the same item. The People’s Chronicle says, ‘The Commission had recommended major penalties against 15 officers, who were found guilty by departmental enquiries for fraudulently withdrawing huge amounts from the State Finance Department. It also recommended to recovery of Rs 26,04,133 from 13 officers out of the 15’. I am one of the two from whom the recovery is not to be done. Why?
It all started when two bills amounting Rs. 1,00,000 and Rs. 50,000 of District Agriculture Officer, Bishnupur, pertaining to Plan were passed by my office when I was the Treasury Officer, Bishnupur in the later part of the Financial Year 2012-13. The bills had all the necessary documents like fund allocation from the Director, Agriculture and sanction orders from the DDO etc. But they did not have the ‘encashment permission for Plan money’ from the Finance Department, Government of Manipur. As such there was a restriction on encashment of all non-salary expenditures under Plan, Non-Plan, CSS/CPS etc. vide an order dated 3rd April 2012 from the Finance Department, in order to curtail expenditure so that financial health of the state was kept reasonably well. Yes, there was an oversight from the side of our office for not checking out the encashment permission. The reasons for this were: 1. the order was comparatively recent, 2. Such bills come once in a while, since they are not recurring expenditure like that of salaries, 3. The bills had all the orders except the permission and as were done before, the bills were passed unmindful of the restriction on Plan money.
The mistake came forward when one letter from the S.P. Vigilance informed me of the mistake of encashment, one fine day. How the matter reached the Vigilance would not be known by people outside the Department of Agriculture. However, the credit goes to the vigilance for prompt detection of the mistake. Though the matter seems to be the internal matter of the Agriculture Department, the treasury becomes part of it since it is the custodian and last outpost of government expenditure. This is when treasury becomes tragedy where we are faced with more brickbats than bouquets, despite our share of hard works monitoring the health of the state finance.
Though the mistake has been committed there was also possibility to rectify that albeit a gap in time. The rectification was in the form of recovery of the encashed amount. The DDO was subsequently instructed to effect the recovery of the same amount and he got the amounts deposited to the relevant Heads of accounts of the Government within the same financial year i.e. 2012-13. Such recovery is admissible under the Central Treasury Rule No. 27. The recovery was informed to the S.P. Vigilance with all the necessary documents like copies of challans etc. So, the matter should have been closed there at least for me. But then the Vigilance recommended ‘major penalty’ for me leaving aside the propriety shown from my side. But then that was just a recommendation and there is the government to look into the gravity of the case.
Media and mis-reporting/incomplete reporting
Most of the reading public, including me, believe that the news items they read, hear and see on print and electronic media are the only and only truth, since they, most of the time, do not have the direct access to the items reported. How many of us are on news? Very selected few who are either famous or unfortunate or for someone after his/her death/murder. As per the experience I have, there are always one or two mistakes in the reporting wherever my name or events associated with me are printed in the local dailies. Sometimes it is about wrong name of my organization, about the very agenda of the meeting or function, and sometimes it is about my designation itself. This might be true for others too, I am sure. Then question arises, how far the news paper items can be taken as the only and only truth?
To give you an example of mis-reporting, the People’s Chronicle described me as ‘former SDO Moirang Ksh Imokanta’. This is a news to me. Yes, the name is exactly mine since there are few such name in this entire world. But sorry I am not either former or present or future SDO of Moirang. People who do not know me might think that I am actually the ‘former SDO of Moirang’.
One other issue is the incomplete reporting of an event which may mean not giving the entire picture but only the gist, opening the item to the wild imagination and interpretation of the reading public. This was exactly the case when the People’s Chronicle again did not give the back ground story of how the money was encashed. Instead it banked on the very derogatory term ‘fraudulently’ (I refuse to call myself a ‘fraud’) to explain the contents of the report. The Imphal Free Press was reasonably better off when it said, ‘The officers were found involved in awarding sanction orders by splitting up the fund under plan, encashment of bills, passing the bills in violation of the finance departments’ ban order on encashment of bills’. If the latter could cite the reason, then why the former could not do the same? Were there multiple sources of the information or were there some hidden agenda? I would not know. This is when I begin to believe when someone says ‘I have been misquoted by the media’. My proposition would be that the media houses, whether privately owned or publicly owned, should invariably have subject specific correspondents, say on government proceedings, finance, economy, social issues, environment etc. This will make them more creditable and would serve as the fodder (or bread or chak as you wish) for their commercial life span.
Media as we all know is very powerful and sometimes I feel that this is ‘the only powerful’. I need not deliberate on its role. It can make or break anything, literally. But it needs to remind itself time and again, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’, to borrow a quote from the Spiderman movie. So it is responsible to itself and, most important of all, to the public.
This ‘sengdokchaba’ in the form of an article is aimed at clarifying the fact that I am not double standard. I have been writing and commenting on various social issues of my interest, since I am also a student of Sociology. If I did not give a clarification on that very news item I would not have the courage to write on social issues and reading public might think that I am double standard, connecting me always with that news item. Now that you have read and known the fact, I might continue writing, at least to tease my faculty. It will be appreciable if the reading public get to know of this ‘sengdokchaba’ before the five days’ media lull during the Yaoshang festival, since the government, society, universities, colleges, mountains, rivers, lakes etc. do not seem to or do not exist when the media is on recess. You see the power of media!