Another skeleton in the closet tumbled out in Odisha on Monday when the Police arrested former IPR director and OIS officer Niranjan Sethi as 'partners-in-crime' in the cameraman Manas Swain kidnapping and murder case.
In the serial of big sharks with their neck deep in murder plots that have been hitting the State every now and then, Sethi's arrest by police on charges of co-key conspirator has now opened a new episode.
The ex-OIS officer, who retired only last month, had occupied influential positions in his three decades of service. Sethi had served in the capacity of public relations officer (PRO) to Chief Minister and Governor. The former OIS officer has his finger in every pie - officialdom to the music world. Sethi has penned lyrics for many romantic Odia modern and devotional songs.
His signature in the power corridor is evident from the fact of how State ministers, legislators and big leaders graced the occasions of the release of his artworks under the banner of 'Sai Smruti' Youtube Channel and Publications.
Reports have surfaced about how Sethi in his capacity as the IPR Director has empanelled prime accused in the Manas Swain murder case, Sarmista Rout's, fortnightly magazine 'Sampoorna' for getting State government Advertisements.
As the empanelment order was passed on the last day of Sethi's retirement, tongues keep waging in the power corridor.
IPR's Pandora Box
The Odisha IPR Department's nepotism in empanelment, negotiation of rates for advertisements in newspapers, periodicals and TV channels have been audited and cracked by the CAG, Bhubaneswar in 2018-19.
The report has identified dozens of skeletons in the IPR cupboard and had made dozens of recommendations to plug the loopholes. But the new episode shows the department has given a damn to CAG findings.
The Office of Accountant General, Bhubaneswar, had sent a letter to the then IPR Secretary in March 2019. The letter has opened Pandora's box of the IPR department. Consider the following CAG pointers (See the image above).
CAG Finger At Blue-Eyed Officers?
The CAG report has raised objections in its audit report on irregularities in the maintenance of Service Books of IPR department officials.
"On verification of 59 Service Book of Government servants working under IPR dept, Audit noticed that the leave account of 17 employees was not updated by the head of the office against the period mentioned in the table (given below)," the report stated and further added that Audit observed that though annual increment was sanctioned, leave was granted, revised pay was fixed, but the head of the office had not attested the Service Books and even not given facility to the concerned employees to ensure the correctness of the entries made in the service books.
Who Is Sarmistha Rout?
As per the Police report, Sarmistha Rout owns a web channel and fortnightly magazine by the name Sampoorna. She also operates an elderly home, 'Dayal Ashram', in Bhubaneswar (Sundarpada).
In fact, as per the police statement, Dayal Ashram has emerged as the crime spot in the Nayagarh cameraman kidnap and murder case. Additional SP, Bhadrak, Jatindra Panda today said, "Post kidnapping from Bhadrak, the victim was bundled to Dayal Ashram in Bhubaneswar where he was tortured and killed. Sethi was at the crime spot and had been one among the torturers."
Reports reveal that the key accused had started her career as a desky-cum-reporter in a (then) newly launched local daily in the mid-2000s. Sources close to her further disclosed her ambitious nature in those early days. "She had political ambition from the beginning," said her former colleague on the condition of anonymity. She would often disclose her ambition candidly before colleagues stating that politics ran in her blood.
Some of the photographs which still adorn her FB status updates make it amply clear her desire to hobnob and share the dais with the who's who of State ruling dispensation, perhaps setting the stepping stones for the plans ahead.
Nevertheless, it is now to be seen how that budding ambition drew her into the murky world of deceit and greed over the years, landing her in a soup and sending the police on her trail in a diabolic murder plot.