Flatgate in Kerala:
‘Whistle Blowers’ Caught Naked
N S Sajith
MOST of the journalists who are hand in glove with the Congress and other UDF bosses in the current anti-CPI(M) conspiracy boast that they are waging a war against the vices in the communist movement in Kerala. For the last three months they have launched an all out attack on CPI(M) in the name of Chandrashekharan murder investigation. The unholy nexus between media and police was explicitly exposed by Deshabhimani by publishing mobile phone call details between some journalists and police officers in the Special Investigation Team formed to investigate the murder. It was revealed that the DySP had made over 3000 phone calls, most of which were to journalists.
Now, another new revelation, on the basis of a document received by Deshabhimani and Indian Express through Right to Information Act, has once again proved the unholy and unethical nexus between the government and the right wing media. According to the news published by these two newspapers, 54 senior journalists have together defaulted on a payment of Rs 19.37 crore for residential flats they secured from Kerala State Housing Board (KSHB) 12 years back under a special scheme for journalists. They were also lobbying with the government to waive this huge amount.
In 2000, KSHB had launched a scheme for providing residential flats to journalists. Under this scheme, 54 two bedroom and three bed room flats were constructed in NCC Nagar in Peroorkada in Thiruvananthapuram Corporation area. A price of Rs 7.62 lakh was fixed for a two bedroom flat and Rs 10.28 lakh for a three bedroom flat. The price of the flats was fixed by the KSHB after deducting an existing government subsidy of Rs 50,000 for journalists against their housing loans. But no journalist has paid the installments, disregarding the frequent notices from the KSHB. The defaulters include 11 journalists from Malayala Manorama, Kerala’s largest-selling daily, and five from Mathrubhumi, the second largest daily in the state.
They also include the Kerala resident editor of Deccan Chronicle-Asian Age, John Mary, Kerala Kaumudi deputy editor P P James, Malayala Manorama bureau chief John Mundakkayam and Congress mouthpiece Veekshanam resident editor J Ajith Kumar. Most of the defaulters actually have one or more other houses and therefore had given these KSHB flats to others on rent. According to the scheme, only journalists who are not possessing homes are eligible for the allotment of the flats.
The allottees occupied the flats after paying Rs 1.25 lakh each. The equated monthly installment (EMI) for the flats was within the range of Rs 2500-4000. While five of the 54 journalists paid the first few instalments, the rest have not paid even a single instalment after taking possession of the property. Further, 23 of the 54 journalists gave the houses on rent in violation of norms and without the approval of the KSHB. With interest on the unpaid loans mounting, each loan has now grown to between Rs 25 lakh and Rs 29 lakh.
In 2004, the Congress-led government was said to be in favour of writing the loans off but did not go through with the plan. The Left Democratic Front government which followed did not give in to the pressure from the journalists and asked them to clear their dues through a one-time settlement plan. But the journalists bought time through their collective pressure, the sources said. They said successive housing ministers would seek the opinion of the finance and housing departments over writing these dues off and the departments would always oppose the proposal.
It remains to be seen what these ‘whistle-blower’ right wing journalists have to say about this Flatgate scandal. Given their brazenness, they are likely to brush this off as a CPI(M)-inspired attack against them. But the people can now clearly see the nexus between this media and the UDF bosses. On the other hand, this nexus is nothing new also. The never-ending tirade of the right wing media against the Left actually started right from the inception of Communist Party in Kerala. In every historic juncture, this media showed its real colours.
CASES FILED AGAINST
BSNL AND DESHABHIMANI
Battered by an expose by Deshabhimani daily on the nexus between media and police officers in the Special Investigation Team (SIT) in charge of T P Chandrashekharan murder case, the Kerala police has registered cases against Deshabhimani and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL). On July 10, Deshabhimani had published a news story based on the details of mobile phone calls made by DySP Josy Cherian of SIT to the media persons in order to publish news against CPI(M) leaders’ alleged involvement in Chandrashekharan’s murder.
The cases have been registered on the basis of complaints filed by DySP Josy Cherian of SIT against both Deshabhimani and BSNL. According to the complaints, BSNL has leaked the phone call details and Deshabhimani has published a story to defame him. Vadakara Rural DySP Rajmohan told newspersons that the investigation has started as the police served a notice to the nodal officer of BSNL.
Director General of Police, Jacob Punnose, said that no phone calls have been leaked but only the call details of investigating officers. He pointed out that the mobile phone companies have been directed to provide phone details only officers of the rank of SP. The police will investigate how the call details were leaked to other persons. He added that the state police has no power to control the mobile phone service providers.
C H ASHOKAN
C H Ashokan, CPI(M) Onchiyam area secretary, who was imprisoned in connection with T P Chandrashekharan murder case, secured bail from High Court. Ashokan, former general secretary of Kerala Non Gazetted Officers Union, was taken into police custody on the pretext of seeking answers for some queries of Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the Chandrashekharan murder. He was later arrested and remanded by Vadakara court.
On July 13, the High Court single bench judge N K Balakrishnan granted the bail with stringent conditions. The court has directed him not go out of Kerala without its permission. Advocate K Gopalakrishana Kurup, who appeared for Ashokan, said that the case was registered on the instruction of leaders of the ruling party. Ashokan was freed from Kozhikode district jail on July 16.
LAKHS OF PEOPLE
At the call of the CPI(M) central leadership, lakhs of people in Kerala courted arrest on July 12 in a massive struggle against the central government’s neo-liberal policies that are resulting in the sky rocketing price rise. Picketings were organised in front of the state government offices in area centres that were attended by thousands of people. Workers, kisans, agricultural labourers, women, youth are among the sections of people that participated in the struggle.
In Thiruvananthapuram, CPI(M) Polit Bureau member M A Baby inaugurated the picketing in front of the state secretariat. Thousands of people gathered at the Martyrs column near Palayam and marched towards secretariat. Addressing the protestors, M A Baby said that both the central and state governments were pushing the people towards mass suicides. The food coupon scheme will intensify the sufferings of the people, he said.
In Kannur, central committee member P K Srimathi inaugurated the picketing. In Kochi, CC member M C Josephine participated in the picketing.