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Have we forgotten Manjunath?:: Bhamy V Shenoy

Posted by ekavi on October 15, 2006

Have we forgotten Manjunath?

It was less than a year back on November 19th, Manjunath Shanmugam,
an IIM graduate gave his life to the country while trying to expose
the corruption in petroleum marketing. For a month or so, his heroic
efforts to expose corruption caught the attention of the nation.
During the same time the nation remembered the sacrifice of
Satyendranath Dubey, an IIT graduate. Dubey was murdered two years
earlier for a similar noble cause of exposing corruption in highway
construction. The nation applauded their heroic deeds though there
were some cynics who wondered about their naïve attempts to fight
corruption.

Fighting corruption in petroleum sector was put on the national agenda
only for few days. It was ironical that within few days of the murder
of Manjunath the corruption charges against Satish Sharma the new
avatar of petroleum corruption were dropped. It was not because there
was not enough proof. It was just that the ministry did not want to
press charges! Is this the way to honor the memory of an idealist like
Manjunath?

The political class which is the beneficiaries of the highly
subsidized kerosene does not like to change the system. However the
murder of Manjunath changed that. At least that is what some of use
diehard optimists thought. First our Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh
assured the nation that he would ask the petroleum ministry to
streamline the pricing system to reduce incentives to defraud. It was
followed by a solemn assurance by the then Petroleum Minister Mani
Shankar Iyer. Every one believed that as a result of supreme sacrifice
of Manjunath, pricing anomaly of selling kerosene at highly subsidized
prices will be removed finally.

Time has proven us wrong. It has only worsened. The difference between
kerosene price and competitive products of petrol and diesel has only
widened over the year and so also the adulteration. Last July, there
was a national level seminar on curbing oil adulteration. Petroleum
Minister Murali Deora took part in that seminar. I made a detailed
presentation during the seminar quantifying the level of corruption in
petroleum sector.

I estimated it to be more than Rs. 40000 crores per year. My
presentation was dedicated to the memory of Manjunath, a gesture which
was well received. But the same participants failed to connect the
corruption that I was discussing with the reason for Manjunath’s
murder. I was pleading with the minister that there are better
foolproof ways of helping the poor with supplying kerosene. But the
minister was adamant that he would not touch kerosene price. I
challenged him by stating that any thing else he does will not solve
the root cause of corruption for which Manjunath had sacrificed his
life. Not one news paper carried this news item. Are we waiting for
some more sacrifices from upright officers like Manjunath?

Every one knows the real beneficiaries of kerosene subsidies. It is
the political class. Umpteen reports have proven the fact that poor
are not the beneficiaries. But no political party dare question the
petroleum pricing system since it is their members and financiers who
are minting money to the extent of Rs. 40000 crores per year. It is
that rotten system Manjunath had the idealism and courage to challenge.

If we want to show our appreciation for the noble deed of Manjunath,
as his death anniversary nears we as a nation need to do far more than
what we have done so far. His sacrifice will not amount to much unless
we uphold the principles for which he gave his life.

His last alma mater IIM Lucknow, his employer Indian Oil Company, and
SJCE at Mysore where he spent his formative years getting his
engineering degree have tried in their own ways to pay respects to his
memory. The trust started in his name has been able to collect less
than 50% of its target of Rs. 50 lakhs.

It is not clear why the trust has to pay the bills of lawyers fighting
the case on behalf of Manjnath’s family. His employer IOC should take
up the legal and moral responsibility of punishing the guilty. The
case is moving at snail’s speed despite it being an open and shut
case. IOC has instituted an award in the name of Manjunath for
honoring the best quality team. What an irony! It should have fought
in the first place to remove the pricing anomaly. There is no one to
champion such a dramatic reform.

A web based petition drive demanding for a full inquiry and justice in
the murder of Manjuanth has just got a total signature of 14200 till
the first week of Oct, 2006. Many who signed have suggested that to
honor Manjunath in real sense of the word, we need to get rid of the
current rotten pricing system. Otherwise his sacrifice would have been
in vain.

As the death anniversary nears, the government should seriously
consider implementing recommendations made by the planning commission
to streamline the pricing and remove all incentives to adulterate
petroleum products. They should also get rid of multi tier pricing of
LPG (LPG is sold at three different prices in residential, commercial
and automotive markets). LPG marketing is another activity where
corruption is rampant. The only lasting way we can honor Manjunath is
to start the process of unwinding kerosene subsidies and reduce
corruption.

Bhamy V Shenoy <bhamysuman@hotmail.com>

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12 Responses to “Have we forgotten Manjunath?:: Bhamy V Shenoy”

  1. Dr Rajinder K Singla said

    Where is Whistleblowers’ Protection in India?
    Seeking Information under RTI led to termination of service

    You have rightly pointed out the Government’s lack of concern for curbing corruption and protecting whistleblowers, with reference to the sacrifice made by Manjunath. One wonders as to how many whistleblowers our country can afford to loose before an enactment (like Whistleblowrs Protection Act) comes into force?

    In my case, I had detected a complete lawlessness, highhandedness, corruption and irregularities in one of the most renowned schools of the country, a legacy of the British Empire called The Lawrence School, Sanawar. With a motive to substantiate the information I possessed with authenticated copies, I had submitted on 28th December 2006 an RTI application to CBSE Regional Office Panchkula to seek certain details on the said school which is permanently affiliated to this Board. On the 5th day of my application, the School Headmaster terminated my services, with immediate effect. He got so scared from the information I had sought that he gave me three months salary in advance in lieu of notice period. CBSE-PIO too denied the information. The case was listed for hearing in the office of the CIC on 3rd of January 2008. Decision is awaited.

    Before I could receive decision from the office of CIC, I started receiving threats to my life as well as my present employment, i.e. Lecturer’s Post in a College. I was expressly conveyed either to submit withdrawal letter for withdrawing my complaint/appeal from the office of the CIC or to be prepared to loose the job. School authorities know it well that if the said school, which caters to the education of wards of the economically rich and influential strata of the society, gets declared accountable under RTI, they will have to part with a large amount of information that has so far been kept in the hiding, i.e. unauthorized possession of thousands of answer-books of CBSE in the possession of school and the purposes they are used for, reasons for undertaking constructions without prior permission from the HP Town & Country Planning Department, Qualifications of the Teaching Staff, utilization of school funds, etc. etc.

    The moot question that arises is: Is this the way our Government protects potential whistleblowers of the country?

    Dr Rajinder K Singla, M.Sc.,Ph.D.,LL.B.
    Chandigarh.

  2. baltisingh said

    Its a curse on India. Everytime some incident happens like the one of Manjunath’s the entire media will bambard for a week and thats all. After a week they will ask you who is Manjunath. Even that one week also they focus on these issues just to make money not meant for journalism.

    I don’t this will change in future also. God save us.

    Balti Singh – Mumbai Share Market

  3. Cederash said

    Даа… Достаточно спорно, поспорил бы с автором…

  4. Ferinannnd said

    Спасибо. Прочитал с интересом. Блог в избранное занес=)

  5. Avertedd said

    Супер статья!

  6. Legall Bug said

    Whistleblower protection is very important and should not be denied to anyone.
    Whistleblower Laws

  7. Зашел случайно на сайт про Советский Союз. Аж слеза накатилась. Ностальгия, что тут скажешь.

  8. Prutha Girme said

    Whistle blowing should be taken seriously.

  9. Потрясающе! Вот не ожидал…)

  10. MG said

    Dear Mr Rajinder K Singal and fellow educators

    Mr Singal, I hope your problem is settled. In your case you may have sent the RTI request in your own name, which is why you were easily victimised. CIC or not, nobody is there to protect whistle blowers identities. It is very easy for them to find the RTI applicant and terminate them or issue threats on life.

    This is a problem affecting all private school teachers and principals who can be easily victimised if they speak up upon noticing corruption and irregularities that are commonly going on. As a result, most of the corruption in schools goes unreported. The principals who know how to get along with management can survive or even get a benefit, increments or bonuses or handsome kick offs from these activities. When they leave the school, they are supposed to keep silent even if they did not benefit much from it, because their full particulars are anyway kept by school managements and they can file false police complaints any time they suspect you may have leaked info (and it may not be you at all).

    Even Indian schools in middle east or S.E. Asia have these problems as they have one foot in India and hire teachers and principals with family back in India. You can Google for Asianet Gulf school funds scam for what happened some years back in Dubai or Kuwait and imagine if a principal gets trapped in these matters. That was bad enough. Now there is another case of Global Indian School from Singapore, the principal was victimised many years after he returned to India. You can find it on Google. Now I heard the same Global Indian school’s another principal who was Malaysia is also being victimised as well and he is also not the person who has leaked their information to news papers and internet, but had to obtain anticipatory bail. Until and unless there is a strong whistle blowers act to identify these patterns of victimisation and launch injunctions and protective orders against these victimisers under the power of government authority, I am afraid private school principals and educators will remain under the mercy of money minded managements. I am not surprised that CBSE and other boards are unhelpful, that is the way they are.

    To be honest, I don’t see any hope for India at this rate. You cannot escape it by going out of India because Indian corruption culture is exported and re imported and recycled again through Middle East, Singapore, Malaysia, USA and so on until the root of the problem lying in India remains so cleverly and safely hidden. Google for section 25 companies profit and you will learn a bit more depressing news.

    If you seek employment outside India, you have to stick to schools managed professionally. From outside, the credentials may look shiny but the core can be rotten. So your best guide is peer professionals advice in picking your future employers wisely, avoiding the rotten apples.

    Please keep in touch whenever you get time.

    Best regards

  11. GovWatch said

    Dear Dr. Singla. I applaud your efforts and bravery in pursuing the path of truth and justice. I also welcome you to use our platform – GovWatch.in to file proxy RTI applications without revealing any of your personal or contact information. We are trying to do our little bit to protect brave activists who are stepping beyond their lives to solve problems that plague our society, culture and country.

  12. Hi there, There’s no doubt that your site could possibly be having web browser compatibility issues. Whenever I take a look at your blog in Safari, it Click https://twitter.com/moooker1

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