CBI probe of chit fund scams puts the heat on Odisha journalists | india | Hindustan Times
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CBI probe of chit fund scams puts the heat on Odisha journalists

One of the reasons that inspired Saroj (name changed) to opt for a career in journalism against the stiff opposition by his family was his desire to work with big names in the industry.

india Updated: Sep 19, 2014 16:51 IST
Ramani Ranjan Mohapatra
Odisha-Bhaskar-owner-publisher-Madhu-Mohanty
Odisha-Bhaskar-owner-publisher-Madhu-Mohanty

One of the reasons that inspired Saroj (name changed) to opt for a career in journalism against the stiff opposition by his family was his desire to work with big names in the industry.

Little did he know that his ‘idols’ would one day be questioned for their alleged involvement in the multi-crore chit fund scams that have hit lakhs of depositors in general and the image of the media industry in particular.

Saroj now spends sleepless nights, worrying about his future, since the owner of the newspaper he is working with has been arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the agency that is probing some tens of companies that include Kolkata-based Saradha Group, Odisha’s Seashore, Artha Tatwa and Swastik Multi-State Cooperative Society.

The CBI has so far nabbed scores of persons, including some top politicians and half-a-dozen media owners.

First among the owners to land in jail was Bikash Kumar Swain, who runs an Odia daily named Suryaprava. Swain reportedly had business transactions with chit fund firm Artha Tatwa Group, whose chief Pradip Sethi has also been arrested.

Like Swain, Odia TV news channel Kamyab’s owner Manoj Das and news daily Odisha Bhaskar’s owner and publisher Madhu Mohanty, who is also the secretary of Press Club of Odisha, both are accused of taking money from the Pradip Sethi group. They all have been sent to judicial custody.

With the owners behind bars, the employees of these organisations are concerned about their future.

“I am afraid whether the newspaper I am working with will stop running,” says Saroj.

Saroj’s concerns are not baseless.

Combo photo of the mastheads of Odia newspapers which are caught up in controversies.

In April 2013, thousands were left jobless after chit fund company Saradha-run media houses closed down. The owner of the Saradha Group, Sudipto Sen, is in jail for allegedly cheating lakhs of depositors of their hard-earned money.

In Odisha too, Odia daily Sarbasadharana, which reportedly had links with another chit fund company SLB Group, shut down last year.

“We did not get salary for months. So, we started leaving the organisation one by one. A month later, the newspaper closed down,” says Bikash Sahoo.

The 25-year-old now works with another Odia newspaper, and thanks god for giving him a chance that saved his career.

Seashore-run S TV, an Odia news channel, also closed down after the company came under scanner for chit fund scam the same year.

So, are the jobs of journalists at risk since the owners of some media organisations are behind bars and a few others under CBI scanner?

Bikash Kumar Swain, who runs the Odia daily Suryaprava.

“Of course, they are in for a trouble. When the owner of an organisation is arrested, it will definitely impact the employees,” says Soumya Ranjan Patnaik, who runs a couple of media houses.

He advises media owners to be careful if they want to venture into another profession at the same time.

Senior journalist Prashant Patnaik echoes Soumya Ranjan’s view.

“The possibility of media houses being shut cannot be ruled out. There are provisions in law that media organisers are equally responsible if they are found promoting chit fund companies,” says the veteran.

Will the arrests impact budding journalists?

“Yes, as the Odia media industry is very small. Plus, it will affect the aspirants,” says a lecturer with a media school, wishing anonymity.