The voice of whistle-blowers needs protection

Manju to his professor "what is this life if we have nothing to die for?"

shishir

Shishir Tripathi | March 16, 2015


#manjunath   #petrol   #adulteration   #whistle blower  

Last month while wandering through Green Park market I stopped at a magazine stall. While flipping through the pages of Readers digest a garish yellow-blue cover of a DVD on the wrought iron stand outside the shop caught my attention. The cover had a face of an unattractive man in thick specs. The title sounded rude to me as it said, “Manjunath: Idiot tha Saala”

As I picked up the DVD and started reading a short introduction of the film written on the back cover, I was filled with sudden urge to know the man behind the face- Manjunath

The film is a biopic which told the story of Shanmugam Manjunath, an Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) officer who was murdered in 2005 for sealing a petrol station in Lakhimpur Kheri, UP for selling adulterated fuel. He was just 28.

The film depicted the irony of our system that failed to protect a man who was “just doing his duty”. Manjunath while working as manager in IOC in Lakhimpur Kheri found that adulterated petrol was sold in the district. What disturbed him gravely was the realization that the petrol was mixed with kerosene meant for poor.

A big system was at work, crores of rupees were stake and people in responsible positions were in the game. And Manjunath was alone. He was killed by one of the petrol pump owner whose pump he had sealed for selling adulterated fuel.

Manjunath, an IIM Lucknow graduate was deserted by those who should have helped him and protected him. But his murder led to outrage among the IIM students. They sent petitions and protest.

People accused were arrested and convicted. On March 11 the highest court of the land upheld the conviction of life term punishment.

But why his story needs to be retold. I think because we are failing likes of Manjunath.

In the movie the accused who is named Golu Goyal is shown ridiculing Manjunath’s soul for his idealism. He tells him "Gandhi sab ko chahiye par padose main..ghar pe tow bas Golu Goyal he theek hai". The ridicule had a message which we choose to ignore.

While recent verdict of the supreme court can be seen as justice to the family and friends of Manjunath, it no less is an embarrassing failure for the system which fails to protect people who are fighting against wrong.

Early this month Delhi high court ordered Delhi police to provide protection and security cover to the whistle blower who is said to have unearthed the “original evidence” in the Vyapam admission and recruitment scandal. In all these cases it is the judiciary who has to intervene. Why that is those who represent us fails to do so.

Following the killing of Satyendra Dubey who was murdered in November 2003 for exposing massive corruption in the National Highways Authority of India’s Golden Quadrilateral project and other cases. whistleblowers protection act was enacted in 2011 which provides a mechanism to investigate alleged corruption and misuse of power by public servants and also protect anyone who exposes alleged wrongdoing in government bodies, projects and offices.

The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in December 2011 and by Rajya Sabha in February 2014. It received the President's assent on 9 May 2014.But then the act is yet to be operationalised because the current government has failed to frame the rules necessary for its implementation.

The verdict of the apex court upholding the conviction of those who killed Manjunath should not be seen as a victory rather should be taken as a grim reminder of the fact that we are failing those “gandhis” who in spite of being ridiculed as naïve , idiot or mere idealist choose to do their job and stand against what was wrong. The least we can do is to protect them.

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