Thursday , 31 July 2014
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Investigative Journalism or Politically Motivated intellectual Prostitution?

When our mainstream medias are playing various roles to conceal and reveal the facts, here is an article written by a techie, about one of  such recent incidents appeared in some newspapers. 

Over the last 2-3 days there has been sensational and clamorous outcry against the so-called ‘NCC Nagar Journalist Flat Scam’ – what is being seen is nothing but concocted & sensationalist journalism with malicious intent under the tag of ‘Big Expose’ by One of the journalists – it’s purely a politically motivated intellectual prostitution and castration by vassals & stooges!

It could also be construed as a deliberate attempt to avert the attention from an extremely important issue bogging the Kerala Society since 5 May 2012! Why this targeted attack and hue & cry against a section of media when a certain group of politicos are at the brink of a political debacle ? Is this part of an agenda to take the public’s eye away from the ruthless crime stories or some kind of reprisal ? It’s time to unravel the truth!

Mr. Shaju Philip, kindly get your facts and figures straight & right and do your home work before you point an accusatory finger, and resort to vilification & defamation. Acting very irresponsibly by reporting stories on mere hearsay and without checking the veracity and authenticity are absolutely preposterous! Spreading misinformation may have some entertainment value, however it reflects very poorly on your journalistic ethos. Your unwarranted & ungrounded story, your arguments, your facts, your figures holds no ground as you sounded like a prejudiced blithering idiot. It’s nothing but deplorable mendacity and pernicious untruthfulness!

This story planted to tarnish and malign the image of the members of your clan have finally boomeranged. Your credibility, dignity and integrity are at stake. Remember, when you point one finger, there are three fingers pointing back to you.

Having tracked your story, I’m reminded of what Mr. John Swinton, the former Chief of Staff at the New York Times, who made the following candid confession, “The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of Mammon, and to sell the country for his daily bread.”

By the way, initially, I was greatly saddened to see the so-called ‘learned’ professionals and so-called ‘friends’ sharing, liking and celebrating the sensationalist and distorted stories not even bothering to cross check the facts. I saw many who have jumped the gun showing a lack of sense, forethought and caution over a frivolous, trifling and misleading report. Frankly, I don’t give a damn as it was a great learning curve & startling revelations on the spurious!

Coming back to the story, Mr. Shaju Philip, the following are the sentence-wise reproduction of your highly acclaimed ‘the real big expose story’ and may I offer comments for one each:

1. “Fifty-four senior journalists in Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram have together defaulted on a payment of Rs 19.37 crore for houses they secured from the Kerala State Housing Board (KSHB) more than a decade ago under a scheme for the media and have been lobbying with the government to waive the amount.”

Neither the NCC Nagar Journalists’ Colony Association nor the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) have sought a waiver or requested (/demanded) the Department of Housing, Government of Kerala or Kerala State Housing Board (KSHB) to write-off the amount. This was even corroborated unequivocally & categorically by the former Minister for Housing, Shri. Binoy Viswam, during the discussion on Kairali People on Sunday, 15 July 2012.

Show some spine to produce an evidence against either of the two associations, mentioned above, who are purported and accused to be lobbying with the government to waive the amount.
Do YOU have any clue about why the Journos have defaulted the payment after paying the initial deposit (25% of the total amount) and few instalments ? Do YOU know that KSHB have not been able to finalize the purchase price and interest rate yet on this scheme which started 20 years ago ? Do YOU know that an interest rates of 20% and 16% were proposed to be charged from allottees ?

Do YOU know that on 11 August 2011, an order was passed by the Department of Housing, Government of Kerala – G.O. (M.S.) No. 23/11/housing dated 11/08/2011, directing KSHB to fix the purchase price as per the decision taken on 30 May 2005 with an interest rate of 8% ? However, the KSHB has not taken any action on this too till date. Why is it so – do YOU know the reason ?

Meanwhile, it would be great studying the verdict by Justice. Siri Jagan, High Court of Kerala, against KSHB in August, 2006 in the Kaloor Vasant Nagar Housing Scheme. It was a similar case wherein the High Court of Kerala has delivered its judgement stating that the allottees need not bear the interest rate caused by the tardiness and inordinate delays by KSHB.

2. KSHB scheme launched in 2000

The history dates back to 1991-1992. I wonder why you wanted to obscure the facts conveniently so as to sound it inadvertent. As per the longstanding request from the Journalists in Thiruvananthapuram, a special housing welfare scheme was proposed by the Government of Kerala in the 1991-1992 Budget Speech (revised – para 76) on 17 March 1992 (Seventeen March Nineteen Ninety Two) according to the Government Order – G.O. (RT) 19/92 (Housing) dated 17/3/1992. Accordingly, an amount of 50 lakhs were earmarked by Government of Kerala to be handed over to Kerala State Housing Board (KSHB).

3. 54 two-bedroom (1,500 sq ft) and three-bedroom (1,700 sq ft) flats were built on a 1.5 acre plot in NCC Nagar

On 20 July 1993, the project report was ready which envisaged a scheme wherein 12 three bed room flats (3BHK – 1150 square feet each) and 42 two bed room flats (2BHK – 850 square feet each) were incorporated in it. This report was approved by Government of Kerala under Section 54 of the Kerala State Housing Board Act, 1971.

I wonder why you wanted to project 850 sq ft as 1,500 sq ft (nearly double) and 1150 sq ft as 1,700 sq ft (1.5 times). Could you please elucidate, Mr. Shaju Philip ?

4. The cost of a two-bedroom flat was tentatively fixed at Rs 7.62 lakh and for a three-bedroom flat at Rs 10.28 lakh, according to information obtained by The Sunday Express through the Right To Information Act.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg and the need of the hour is to unravel the truth. On 20 July 1993, the project report was ready and it was approved by Government of Kerala under Section 54 of the Kerala State Housing Board Act, 1971. There was a tentative cost fixation of Rs. 6,36,529 (6.36 lakhs) as purchase price for 3 BHK flats, and Rs. 4,74,320 (4.74 lakhs) as purchase price for 2 BHK flats in 1993.

Initially, it was proposed to launch the project implementation work on 1/10/1993 so that it could be completed by 31/3/1995, that is, within 18 months. However, it was delayed, and as per G.O. (RT) 61/94 (Housing) dated 27/06/1994, the approval for project implementation was granted. As per the Work Order submitted on 11 October 1994, it was proposed to kick-start the project execution process on 16 November 1994, and was planned to complete the project within 18 months, that is, by 15 May 1996. However, even after 17 months, ONLY 36.24% of the work were completed by April, 1996. Subsequently, the LDF Government which assumed power (May, 1996) under Shri. E. K. Nayanar took stock of the situation and observed that implementation of the scheme was tardy and ONLY 40% of the work was completed by July, 1996. However, the initial deadline agreed to was 15 May 1996. Accordingly, the project implementation agreement was cancelled on 29 July 1996. A new agreement was signed on 6 February 1997, according to which the project completion was proposed to be by 30 June 1998. However, there were inordinate delays and the project which was initiated in 1993 was finally completed ONLY by 20 January 2000.

Once the project was completed in 2000, the purchase price of 3BHK flat was raised exorbitantly and tentatively fixed at Rs. 10,28,106 (10.28 lakhs) as on 20 Jan 2000, which was way too a higher purchase price – an increase of Rs. 3,91,577 (3.91 lakhs) over the initial purchase price of 6.36 lakhs quoted in 1993. Similarly, the cost of 2BHK was raised and tentatively fixed at Rs.7,61,953 (7.61 lakhs) as on 20 Jan 2000, which was also a higher purchase price – an increase of Rs. 2,87,633 (2.87 lakhs) over the initial purchase price of 4.74 lakhs quoted in 1993. The newly fixed purchase prices were absolutely unacceptable as the cost incurred due to tardiness and inordinate delays in project execution by KSHB were to be borne by the Journalists, for no fault of their own.

Interestingly, when the orders were issued for allotment of flat on hire purchase basis by KSHB on 1 December 2000, the purchase price of the 3BHK flat was again raised to Rs. 11,52,084 (11.5 lakhs) and 2 BHK was raised to Rs. 9,11,000 (9.11 lakhs). This was way too above the market rate. The intent was nothing but the fact that KSHB wanted to pass on the burden of the HUDCO loan availed by them on to the shoulders of the allottees.

5. The houses were allotted in batches from 2000.

It was not allotted in batches. It was OPEN and up for grabs. Anyone who followed the norms, met the criteria and eligibility conditions could have occupied the flats. However, ONLY 7 flats were allotted since there were no takers due to very high initial deposit, instalment, purchase price and interest rate.

6. The allottees occupied the flats after paying Rs 1.25 lakh each. The equated monthly instalment (EMI) for the flats was within the range of Rs 2,500-4,000.

These are absolutely baseless. The 3 BHK allottees were the initial occupants and they were required to pay a sum of Rs. 2,88,021 (2.88 lakhs as against 1.25 lakhs mentioned in the report) as the initial deposit by way of DD in favor of KSHB along with the first instalment of Rs. 12,955 as against Rs. 2,500-4,000 mentioned in the report. When the deed of agreement for sale was executed on 7 December 2000, an amount of Rs. 3,00,976 (Rs. 2,88,021 + Rs. 12,955 = 3 lakhs) were paid to get the 3BHK flats allotted – nearly 25% of the purchase price.
Finally, it was occupied in Jan 2001, which meant that a delay of 13 months since the completion of project on 20 Jan 2000. Since the purchase price and interest rates were high, ONLY 11 flats out of 54 flats were occupied until 2003. 43 were left unoccupied. Considering the fact that 90% of flats remained unclaimed, KSHB later on agreed to reduce the initial deposit amount to 1.25 lakhs.

7. 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.

How can the Government ever write the loans off when neither the NCC Nagar Journalists’ Colony Association nor the Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) have sought a waiver or requested or demanded the Department of Housing, Government of Kerala or Kerala State Housing Board (KSHB) to write-off the loan.

8. 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.

During the course of these events since 2000, a series of requests were submitted to Government of Kerala to re-evaluate the purchase price and interest rate. Meetings were held with Minister for Housing, Minister for Finance, Minister for Law and other officials concerned on 11 June 2002, 18 May 2005, 14 July 2009 etc for finalizing the purchase price and interest rate – it was NOT for writing these dues off!

9. KHSB sources said the journalists were reluctant to settle the dues under one-time-settlement scheme, which had been found acceptable to even BPL families.

While perusing the order passed by the Department of Housing, Government of Kerala – G.O. (M.S.) No. 23/11/housing dated 11/08/2011, we will understand that the journalists were reluctant to settle the dues under one-time-settlement scheme because of high interest rate. Government had examined the matter in detail and had accorded sanction to decrease the interest rate to 8% and fix the purchase price as per the decision taken on 30.5.2005. However, the KSHB has not taken any action on this too till date. Why is it so ?

10. Journalists gave the houses on rent in violation of norms and without the approval of the KSHB

Do YOU know the details pertaining to the Kerala Extra Ordinary Gazatte No. 363, 366, 367 notified on 30 March 2002 with the amendments related to the allotment conditions ? Kindly read it and apply your reason, logic and sagacity to derive the fact.

By the way, Mr. Shagu Philip, this shade of impassiveness and apathy is not a surprise at all, especially going by your history. Where were your investigative journalism, journalistic accountability and ethos when you lived in this Journalist Colony as a tenant for months ? How could you ever sublet the flat multiple times violating the norms and without the approval of the owner ? We do not want to divulge too many details as you would not have the inner strength to stand it while being exposed.

You should have confirmed the authenticity and corroborate the veracity before reporting as it could attract Section 469 & Section 503 of the IPC!

Kindly be aware of the fact that we will not be bowing down and yielding to your unwarrantable and unfounded report. We will fight it out to keep our personal & professional integrity, self-esteem and dignity unharmed and intact!

       
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