While the Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill, hailed as the ultimate shield that would protect those who expose corruption from harm, is listed for approval by Rajya Sabha in this session, the parched Earth is quenching its thirst with the blood of anti-corruption crusaders.
We have seen how the politicians, who otherwise clear laws left, right and centre, keep delaying key legislations that might hurt their ‘interests’. The anti-corruption Lokpal Bill, pending for more than four decades, has been shuttled to yet another committee. We can only hope that this law will come into force before money swallowed by politicians and bureaucrats exceed the gross domestic product (GDP).
The Whistleblowers’ Bill also has not been a product of the desire of the political class to help the anti-graft efforts. About a decade back, Satyendra Dubey, an NHAI official who exposed a massive scam in the NDA government’s Golden Quadrilateral project was murdered after his role in the expose was leaked from top government sources. It was the uproar over this incident that forcedsome movement on this legislation.
The latest to join the long list of martyrs who lost their lives to the cause of keeping the system clean was Karnataka Administrative Service officer SP Mahesh. The upright officer was bludgeoned to death in the heart of Bangalore. He had exposed massive scams in co-operative societies. His wife told the police that he was attacked at least thrice earlier.
A few months back, a young IPS officer, NS Singh, was brutally murdered by the mining mafia in Madhya Pradesh. If we take into account the number of social activists and NGO members who are butchered across the country, the list gets longer.
Social activists, journalists, NGO members, honest government officials and RTI activists have been paying with their lives for upholding the right. However, after the initial media hype and public outrage, the state of affairs returns to normal — and would return to limelight only at the next bloodshed.
A recent article in the Outlook by Mathew Samuel, who conducted the Tehelka sting operation that exposed colossal corruption in defence deals, describes the unsavoury ordeal that lies in wait for those who expose corruption in high places.
Experience has taught us that an impressive array of laws is toothless as long as there is no effective implementation machinery; the legislation to protect whistleblowers is no exception to this. What we need is an effective mechanism on the lines of witness protection programmes that are in place in developed countries.
These countries are able to check corruption to a large extent due to the effectiveness of such programmes. Their governments allocate massive funds to ensure that whistleblowers are not exposed and provide them with adequate security. In cases where the exposed corrupt are rich and well-connected, the whistleblowers are given new identities by the government itself so that they are beyond any harm.
We are a country where a footpath tout can get a driving licence in the name of the prime minister issued for a few thousand rupees. So it doesn’t require rocket science for the government to take a few lessons from their more vigilant Western counterparts to protect the people who risk everything in their lives to expose corruption.
We need to create a system of rewards and protection, backed by powerful laws that will enable more people to come out and expose those who eat into public money. The scamsters should be made to realise that ‘eliminating’ informants is not going to be a cakewalk and that the system will take care of those who strive to keep it clean. Satyameva Jayate.
The writer works for Postnoon.
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My interests lie in current affairs, social issues and political analysis. A strong believer of independent thinking and healthy scepticism.