An upright government official posted at Kerala House in Delhi who was probing into the embezzlement of public funds by journalists belonging to Left-leaning Kerala Union of Working Journalists (KUWJ) was transferred allegedly at the direction of the Chief Minister’s Office. Dr Venugopal, Deputy Director, IPRD, has been transferred to Non-Resident Keralites Affairs Department (NORKA). The government is likely to leave the post vacant to stifle the investigation, sources said.
According to sources, the CMO was upset that, despite its directive to go slow, the officer had moved fast with the probe giving sleepless nights to the journalists who had allegedly swindled Rs 25 lakh allotted by the government “to renovate a non-existent” KUWJ Press Club in Delhi. As the noose was tightening around their necks, the tainted journalists had approached Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s Media Advisor John Brittas to save their skin, who sensing an opportunity in the situation did a favour to his former colleagues by scuttling the investigation. The CMO’s bid was to save former and present KUWJ Delhi unit office-bearers Prashant Raghuvamsom of Asianet, PK Manikandan of Mathrubhumi, Thomas Dominic of Malayala Manorama and Prashant Nair of CPI(M) mouthpiece Deshabhimani (he is an elected executive member of Press Club of India, Delhi).
The case reached the Kerala High Court which had sought responses from the state government and KUWJ office-bearers. Earlier, the Kerala government had constituted a five-member team of officers in the Public Relations Department to investigate the misappropriation of government funds to the tune of Rs 2.5 crore allotted to various Press Clubs in Kerala. Dr Venugopal was entrusted with the duty of investigating and filing a report on the fund embezzlement case in Delhi unit. Although the officer had given a letter to KUWJ Delhi authorities to submit fund utilization and bank details since 2012, they are yet to submit the details. According to sources, there was pressure on Dr Venugopal to give a clean chit to the tainted journalists who had syphoned Rs 25 lakh allotted by the government.
When the development was first reported in Indus Scrolls Malayalam, it was conveyed to our editorial team by John Brittas (in a language that smacks of arrogance) that he would transfer ‘two or three more if he wished so’, meaning he won’t care anyone whatsoever. (Given his clout in the Kerala government and in some sections of the national and vernacular media, this is not an impossible feat. He has already launched a PR overdrive to hard-sell Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the national media. As a PR exercise, The Indian Express has carried several interviews and reports of CM Vijayan in the last one year, particularly after the Sabarimala imbroglio. A senior Congress leader reportedly alleged the same paper was used to plant a fake news item on his party.)