Friday, April 02, 2010

Why we need a Whistleblower Law in India

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Ok so I am back to writing serious posts. There is an issue which has been bugging me for quite some time, last few years actually. Its the lack of transparency in government offices in India. Ever since a student steps out of school, he realises that the big bad world is not such a nice place to live in. Officials are blatantly corrupt and care little about threats to senior authorities etc. The situation in Delhi is much better than other parts of the country, but still we have a long way to go with certain departments like the MCD and the Police department wherein rampant corruption and utter disregard for citizens is unfortunately an accepted evil.

I will first issue the bouquets, I have had recent interactions with the Passport office at Bhikaji Cama Place and the Transport office at IP Estate. At both these places I was pleasantly surprised by the zero corruption or harassment. I used to hear of horror stories on how I would be harassed and money would be asked for at each step. This is totally untrue for these two offices as long as all your documents are complete. If they are not, it is possible that you may be subject to harassment.

Now coming to the brickbats, its no secret that in India everyone from the lowest level class 4 employee to the IAS officers sitting in their comfy AC offices are corrupt to the core. Not everyone is corrupt mind you, but many are. Has anyone tried to reason out why they turn to corruption ?

Loose morals – I can see it in a lot of students and people around me, these are the people who are really the termites/cancer eating out India from the inside. If people currently studying in college have no qualms in admitting that they think a Government job is for earning money under the table, it points out to bad upbringing or bad company, it is usually a combination of both.

Such people need proper counselling on the ill effects of corruption and how even taking bribes would negatively affect them and not only in the law enforcement scenario. That is why I am of a firm opinion that ethics should be a subject in school as well as college.

Embarrassment also works, I remember on a recent visit to a photocopy shop in CR Park, a few Govt. school boys were there getting notes photocopied in small sizes so that they could hide them. Upon seeing me looking at their operation intently, they did get embarrassed and started talking among themselves about how they were sick etc. and couldn’t attend classes. So its essential to instil the fear of social stigma inside the corrupt with loose morals.

Strong Morals but helpless – This is the second category of people, those who have strong morals and are absolutely sure about the fact that corruption, bribery etc. should not be encouraged in any circumstances. They are the kind of people who will help India eradicate corruption. Unfortunately though, these people are a minority and even worse these people are usually scared of raising their voice as there is no Whistleblower law in India. They are scared of meeting the same fate as Satyendra Dubey and Shanmughan Manjunath. These two great souls gave their lives while trying to fight the corrupt.

The reason why they were killed was because there was no protection given to them under any law for bringing out instances of corruption. Even more tragic is the fact that their examples might be scaring off more people than inspiring them.

Imagine a scenario where a young graduate enters a Government office with a zeal and vigour to do service to his country. What he sees at the office is instead corruption and harassment at every stage. He talks to his boss who warns him of dire consequences (death even) if he opens his mouth. What choice does he have ? He is forced to become a part of the corrupt system and pretty soon seeing all the money around him he himself treads the path which he had sworn never to follow.

Now imagine a second scenario, wherein this new graduate is promised immunity and security in case he blows the whistle, a system wherein his credentials are kept totally anonymous and the action taken on his complaints is direct and visible to him. When the fear of victimisation is gone, people are going to come out and blow the whistle on a number of corrupt officials , ongoing scams , frauds and mismanagement. But this is all hypothetical till the Whistleblower Bill is introduced and passed.

The good news is that the current law minister Verappa Moily seems to have supported the bill at different stages. But the motivation and intent seems to be lacking from others including our prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and AICC chairman Sonia Gandhi. Instead of enacting populist bills, this bill needs to be prioritised in order to ensure that corruption is reduced in our public offices. The congress has recently made landmark legislations :

1. NREGA 2. Right to Education Bill 3. RTI Act

Come on now, show us you care about the country and introduce the whistleblower law !

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