Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Two years ago it was Satyendra Dubey in Jharkhand. Now it's Manjunath Shanmugham in Sitapur. Two young men ruthlessly killed for exposing corruption and nepotism. Dubey, the talented and upright IIT Kanpur graduate, was supervising the Golden Quadrilateral National Highway Project when he noticed large scale misappropriation of funds. After suspending a few officials, he wrote to the PM office about the corruption underway in this mega project. The mafia got whiff of it and he was murdered.

Shanmugham, a sales manager with the Indian Oil Corporation and an alumni of IIM-L earned the ire of the local petrol outlet mafia when he canceled the license of a petrol pump and blacklisted several others for selling adulterated oil. For this he was beaten and shot dead. His body was found on the back seat of a car. The two local petrol pump employees driving the car were on their way to dispose off the body.

Is this the path India must take, to superpowerhood of the 21st century. Bribery and corruption lauded and rewarded while honest, educated Indians get bullets through their skull. It is a well known fact that petrol pumps are treated as jagirs by our netas and given as as gifts to their goons. That the petrol pump-corruption nexus is strong came to light after Kargil, when hefty bribes were demanded from the families of martyred servicemen for allotment of petrol pump outlets. The PM needed to intervene to set things straight.

Often the PMO is not left untouched. As in the case of Satyendra Dubey. Dubey in his letter to the PMO had said "Sir, don’t mention my name." But he had ended by revealing his identity. Later when he was pressured and threatened he wrote again "Sir, my identity has been leaked. You would appreciate that this disclosure has exposed me to undesirable pressures and threats." But no letter or appeal for help could save him. Neither could the then PM, Atal Behari Vajpayee, be bothered to pay a visit to his family to offer condolences.

There has been tremendous outpouring of support and solidarity. However the chances that the real culprits will be brought to book are pretty slim. Best case scenario, the murderers will get a life sentence. But the men who masterminded the murder would still be sipping their sherbets and watching the sunset from their balconies. Ordering a CBI inquiry wouldn't mean much either. Two years after CBI took over the Dubey case there hasnt been any progress. On the contrary they concluded that it was a case of road robbery. The accused after having escaped a couple of times has been rearrested recently. One wonders if the judges will finally get to see him, much less issue a verdict on his crime.

I don't know if there is anything much we can do except write and philosophize. Two years ago the Dubey murder resulted in several public interest litigations. At the Supreme Court's prodding, the central govt was forced to empower the Central Vigilance Commission with the Whistle-blowers Act to act on the tips from whistle-blowers and protect them. Can something positive come out of collective public opinion this time around too?

The least we can do is raise our e-voices. Those of you reading this please go to http://manjunathshanmugam.blogspot.com/
and show your support.

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