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Save the saviours
Welcome law for whistleblowers

Finally there is a sigh of relief as well as a sense of motivation for whistleblowers. The Union Cabinet finally cleared the redrafted Public Interest Disclosure (Protection of Informers) Bill, 2010 this month. This is a milestone as per as the issue of protecting lives of whistleblowers is concerned. This bill also gives more power to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) to protect whistle blowers.

For the uninitiated, a whistle blower is an informant who exposes any wrongdoing within an organization to the authorities. Since it also exposes the people involved in irregularities, this ostensibly noble endeavour is naturally fraught with risk. There are instances galore of people who became whistleblowers with good intent, yet paid a heavy price. For example, Vijay Bahadur Singh, a Superintendent of Customs in Mumbai exposed the manipulations committed in Customs by senior officers by writing a letter on February 28, 2003 to the then President APJ Abdul Kalam. Unfortunately, later, his brother was killed. Satyendra Dubey exposed his seniors in NHAI for widespread corruption in highway projects. He wrote to the then PM Atal Behari Vajpayee but was himself later murdered. There were no laws with regards to protecting whistleblowers earlier but Dubey’s death and the extensive media criticism forced the government to bring on the Act. S. Manjunath, a former manager at Indian Oil Corporation, was shot dead by a petrol pump owner for exposing adulteration of petrol. Gujarat-based RTI activist & green crusader Amit Jethwa, who was protesting against illegal mining in Gir forests, also had to lay down his life recently. M. N. Vijayakumar, an IAS officer in Karnataka, went through rigorous threat & torture for exposing corrupt practices at high levels.

Now, since CVC has the autonomy, it has a greater role to play. Though it recently achieved some success by revealing the names of 123 corrupt government officials, it has been under stiff criticism for being heavily influenced by political leaders and bureaucracy. This is an opportunity to set the record straight for once; for which the Election Commission is an excellent precedent to follow.

By:- Akram Hoque

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