17 August 2011

Blow the whistle - at (your) own risk

Did you know Shehla Masood, till 3 days back. I did not! In her own words she described herself as "RTI crusader,Wildlife conservationist, Trekker, Social causes leader,President Progressive Muslim Women's Asso, A born rebel, Arguing with policy makers,Foodie." On Tuesday, Shehla Masood became the latest victim of a rising trend in attacks on such people who have tried to expose wrongdoings.

In 2010 alone, 10 RTI activist have been killed for trying to fight the corrupt and expose wrongdoings <click here to see the list>. Before any of the usual armchair critics smirk and argue that most of these allegations are probably not established, lets acknowledge the fact that "Blowing the whistle in this country, my country is indeed at your own risk"


The issue of protection for whistleblowers caught the attention of the entire nation when National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) engineer Satyendra Dubey was killed after he wrote a letter to the office of then PM A B Vajpayee detailing corruption in the construction of highways. One year later, Manjunath Shanmugham, an IIM graduate and a sales manager of the IOC, was murdered on Nov 19, 2005 for exposing the racket of adulteration of petrol and the mafia behind it. This brought renewed focus on need for a law to protect whistleblowers — but six years after the last episode, there is still no law in India. Or Do we?

I tried finding if there is any such law in force, and only could lay my hands on this Public Interest Disclosure and Protection to Persons, 2010, which was tabled in Lok Sabha in Aug 2010. Not sure if finally got formulated as law. Even it did see the light of the day, and if you read the postulates that it is as teethless as one can get away with. It indeed has not yet seen light of the day, languishing in the corridors of parliament. The much acclaimed democratic & parliamentary process will address it, yes it will - how can you not have faith in the largest democracy of the world. The glorious democratic 65 years we have had. So what, if 10 RTI activist die, because they could seek no protection from the state. Well hundreds of citizens die every year, for no rhyme or reason. These 10 'adventurers' asked for it - we did warn them. Did'nt we - Mr. Home Minister.

The irony is, probably Shehla, knew well, the risks of her adventures, so did Satyendra and Manjunath. Men and Women, who chose to still go ahead, putting their lives at risk. The media drummed the news, till it became stale, the opposition and politicians gave new bites for short time. Till the time, the aam admi remembered. We have short memories. We forget easily, the arm chairs critics lamented, gave suggestions, and in a twisted way debated the issue till a new one became the flavor of month. So much for intellectual masturbation.

We sadly still continue to drum the beat of parliamentary democracy, which is defunct and dysfunctional. Let me bring your attention to the issue of 'whistleblower protection' in Lokpal bill.

Civil Society Version (the much maligned 'self acclaimed civil society version): Requires Lokpal to provide protection to whistleblowers, victims, & witnesses of corruption.
Government Draft : No mention. (Are you surprised! - not me)

And yes, the government does have a response, the whistleblowers protection will be provided under a separate law. And well, till the parliamentary process gives its verdict - you have a choice. Either stay quiet and tolerate or blow the whistle and fight the system at your own risk. 

For all those of you, who still think the Civil version is anarchist, read the detailed comparison here, and be specific as to why you think so.

9 comments:

Chintan Gupta said...

This is a very well researched post. Honestly I did not pay attention when her name trended on twitter, but thanks for highlighting the facts. Ah! Just checked its your blog Mayank :) I was checking my follow list and reading the latest updates, very well documented....alas I am losing hope from my country and the government....

Cloudninetalks said...

Lot of ground work here. I never knew there was a teethless law to protect the whistle blowers. Even international law has no provisions to safeguard these brave men and women. Remember Assange? And as rightly you pointed out, our memory is too poor or simply dysfunctional:(

mayankpandey said...

Cloudnine - the law is still not enacted. It was tabled last year in Aug 2010, unfortunately it is weak. And as usual it has not yet become a law. The sad part of our democracy is that governance quality is the last priority for everyone. I honestly do not believe anyone in the parliament is really bothered about loss of life of its citizens. We are cheap commodity, and deserve at best a condolence message. I bow my head to the brave men and women of this country who inspite of odds, continue to fight. Feels proud.

mayankpandey said...

Thanks Chintan. It is amazing if you think about it how much awareness has been generated on law/ bill/ postulates etc as a fall out of the civil movement. the transparency that they have shown surpasses what we have seen from this government over last many years. The power of information is indeed the right empowerment for the people of this country. While I do agree with you (sadly) that there is little hope from this government and other politicians, I am quiet certain that this country is abound with people like Shehla who will continue to fight to make this country a better place to live.
And thanks for feedback on post quality, I do feel strongly that the least we can do as educated citizens is to stop making general remarks and have fact based discussions.

Zephyr said...

Attaboy Mayank! what a wonderfully complete post! For the past few days we have heard nothing except terms like 'parliametary process', subversion of the parliament', disprecpect to the parliament' and so on and so forth. A shameless govt. is dithering in taking action or even coming out with a credible statement. The male sphinx (the female one is recuperating abroad) sat through a stormy debate without batting an eyelid. Yes, we do need to fight; after all we got freedom only after losing hundreds of lives to the bullets of British. We will get the same freedom from corruption too at the cost of the lives of Sehla and others. Jai Hind!

mayankpandey said...

And how proud i feel to be part of this land which has selfless people still fighting for a cause which is beyond their own personal comforts. I remind myself, till we have such men and women, giving up on this country and its people is a crime, so what if its not in my lifetime.

Sunil Deepak said...

Mayank, thanks for bringing up the name of Shehla Masood. Only if enough of us can show that we care, would there be any chance of a change.

mayankpandey said...

Sunil, i can tell you how pleased i am to read your comments, after a bit sad morning readings blogs of fellow folks who have chosen to remain cynic and ridicule every effort that 'aam admi' puts in to fight for his / her rights. We can do with some more optimism, care and understanding.

puneet3210 said...

Hi, good to see your blog & your interest in the nation, politics & issues like corruption. I had been to Freedom Park, Bangalore to support the Anna Hazare team recently. I have shared my experience on my blog http://puneet3210.blogspot.com/2011/08/anna-hazare-freedom-park-bangalore.html . Do have a look. The same is shared on IndiBlogger also at http://www.indiblogger.in/indipost.php?post=72809 :) Puneet

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