Don’t blow them away – Priti Jain

Let’s just take two minutes of our lives and think about the recent happenings, political happenings of course. The newspapers are either filled with the poor trajectory of the Indian economy accompanied with a latent reassurance by the Prime Minister or a laggard corruption investigation. Now think harder and trace back the instigators of these investigations. You’ll never find a political opposition in the forefront of any of the disclosures. It’s always either an activist, retired public officer or you and me who go all the way to unearth a scam. The only job left of the opposition is to reiterate their claims or dismiss them altogether. Their unscrupulous political stands never ceased to surprise us and have always managed to keep us in a permanent limbo.

 But even though the bigger scams made it to the front pages, somewhere down the line things were still amiss. What about Satyendra Dubey, Shehla Masood, Vijay Pandhare, S. Manjunath, Vijay Bahadur Singh or Narendra Kumar, what have they done? These are the unsung heroes who either lost their lives or livelihood in the process of ferreting the discrepancies in the management. Were they just performing their duties in doing the right thing or getting too meddlesome, disrupting the state of affairs. They were the whistleblowers who cared to step up and bring forth the maligning elements in our society and demand justice on our behalves. They made the perpetrators restless; they made the wrongdoers nervous, made the offenders agitated and flustered the lives out of them. They did what the authorities should’ve done in the very beginning and rid the system off them.

The death of Satyendra Dubey, the man behind the exposure of National Highway misappropriation scam in 2003 surprisingly woke the law makers from their deep slumbers and triggered the need for a law protecting the whistleblowers’ interest. This led to the formation of a resolution in 2004 with effect from 2006. But an act supported by the parliament is still in order. The passage of the bill in the Lok Sabha in 2011 and the pending response by the other house stagnated by the parliament logjam is awaiting a nod. When implemented, it will bring justice not only to the whistleblowers but also instill faith in the minds of the people. The shortcomings in the management capacity of the organization can be reduced with the execution of the act. Douglas McGregor with his pioneering theories in the managerial aspects of Public Administration stressed the need for self disciplinary characteristics in the human nature for the success of the organization. Application of that theory today will be a wishful dream never to come true. Without an authority hovering around our heads we never even consider disciplining ourselves.

This is not confined to the public sector; the private corporate sector too is simmered in this lawlessness. The recent conference by the Institute of Company Secretary of India (ICSI) in strengthening its reach in protecting the corporate whistleblowers is an inclusive parallel step. Working out a quick mechanism to the effect has been an initiative by the accounting firm PriceWaterCoopers (PWC). A detailed analysis and formulation of a policy bottom-top has been the prerogative of the corporate sector. Both public and private sector should have an effective system running in the near future to safeguard the genuine welfare of the whistleblowers.

What really irks the sentiment of a whistleblower is the fact that their repeated need for security from the wrath of the respondent which might be in the form of harassment, assault or even murder has been turned down by the police departments. A police security has been a rarity, provided only when there are strict orders from the judiciary. Making it mandatory to provide them with the much needed security is the crux of the act. The provision of permanent security for not only the politicians but their whole family against a temporary protection to the whistleblowers is facilitating the crime. The probing authorities like the CBI and the police departments need to remain a political throughout the investigation to maintain the sanctity of the law. Any influence by the state or central governments needs to be kept at bay.

The Center and State Vigilant Commissions which have the onus of hearing the pleas need to maintain a neutral stand against both the parties. Their ambit of penalization has to be broadened and upgraded from the mere recommendatory status to hardcore punitive actions. Only then will the efforts of the whistleblowers materialize in its true sense. Inclusion of all the government organs within the purview of the act will make it more tenable, though it seems very improbable owing to the reluctance shown by the law makers under the pretext of the breach of national security. Sure. Once the troika of the Lokpal, RTI and the Whistleblowers Protection act are at stage of more than being surfaced in the parliament, with the exception of RTI being already in action, India will be in the race of being a pioneer in the action against corruption, at least on paper.

The respect and support needed to sustain these acts of goodwill need to be taken at another level. The rate of participation has to be accelerated and the confidence in the system boosted. We need more of Satyendra Dubey and Narendra Kumar but not the fate they suffered at the hands of nexus between the mafia and the politicians. They are our resources for a transparent democracy and we need do preserve them, lest their extinction.

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