An open letter to learders of politial parties
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  • February 10, 2014
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February 10, 2014

Families of whislteblowers held a demonstration outside offices of political parties to demand the passage of the Whistleblowers Protection Bill and Grievance Redress Bill. Expressing disappointment at the Houses of Parliament being adjourned once again without transacting any business, they demanded that every party ensure that the bills are taken up and passed tomorrow. They pledged to continue to struggle everyday till the bills are taken up by the Parliament.

The families of whistleblowers wrote a letter addressed to leaders of all political parties. The letter was endorsed by Anjali Bhardwaj, Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey of the National Campaign for Peoples Right to Information (NCPRI).

The letter sent to leaders of key political leaders is pasted below.

AN OPEN LETTER TO LEADERS OF POLITICAL PARTIES

I lost my brother, Satyendra Dubery, 10 years ago when he was brutally murdered for exposing corruption in NHAI. In his letter exposing corruption, he had specifically requested that his identity be kept confidential. His letter along with his identity was leaked to those indulging in corruption, who then murdered my brother. At the time of his death, all the political parties sent representatives to our house, expressing their condolences and promising us any assistance that we might need.

As prominent leaders of national political parties, today I write to you to seek your help. I seek your help and the help of all your party members in ensuring that the Whistleblowers Protection bill and the Grievance Redress Bill, pending in Parliament, are passed. The Supreme Court had in 2004, after my brothers murdered, directed that a mechanism to protect whistleblowers be put in place. It is a matter of great shame that till date there is no statutory framework for protecting whistleblowers.  All progressive democracies acknowledge the crucial role that whistleblowers play in exposing corruption and wrongdoing. Whistleblowers, risk their lives, to expose vested interests colluding to commit crimes and corruption. They bring out cases of human rights violation, gross mal- governance and wastage of public funds through corruption, despite being aware of the risk to their lives. They are protectors of democracy and human rights who often make the ultimate sacrifice with their lives. The UNCAC, to which India is a signatory, also makes it mandatory upon signatory countries to ensure protection of whistleblowers. Article 33 of UNCAC states-

  “Each State Party shall consider incorporating into its domestic legal system appropriate measures to provide protection against any unjustified treatment for any person who reports in good faith and on reasonable grounds to the competent authorities any facts concerning offences established in accordance with this Convention.”

Since my brother’s death, more than 30 whistleblowers have been killed. Their families continue to suffer like me.

Who are these people who take it upon themselves to expose corruption despite threats of being killed? 33 year old Shimbu Ram Bishnoi of Jodhpur was an agricultural labourer in his village Jesla in Jodhpur district of Rajasthan. In 2011, Bishnoi began using the RTI Act for exposing corruption in various welfare schemes of the Panchayat. He found corruption at a large scale in the tubewell scheme, forged job cards and unqualified “mates” in MGNREGA and discrepancies in the list of beneficiaries for PDS. Based on information revealed, Bishnoi and his colleagues filed complaints before the State Anti Corruption Bureau and the NREGA Lokpal. Information accessed by Bishnoi revealed that the Sarpanch of the village did not meet with requisite qualifications and was in fact a registered “history sheeter” with the police. As a result of his revelations, the Sarpanch and his family members threatened Bishnoi and fellow RTI activists repeatedly. Bishnoi and his colleagues remained undeterred. On 7th October 2013, as Bishnoi was walking back from the Gram Panchayat, he was brutally attacked with iron rods and wooden sticks by the Sarpanch, his two sons and three others. Bishnoi suffered grievous injuries and a broken skull and succumbed to injuries before he could reach the hospital.  Bishnoi is survived by his wife and four young children aged between 5 to 13 years. His family and fellow RTI activist-colleagues continue to receive grave threats to their lives from the accused. I met with the wife of Shimbu Bishnoi of Jodhpur, and like my family, hers too are looking for justice and political commitment to show that the state is with them, and against the corrupt.

Ram Kumar Thakur’s family members and colleagues have also been demanding the passage of these bills. Ram Kumar Thakur, a lawyer and RTI activist, had been actively raising the issue of corruption in his village, Ratnauli Panchayat in Muzzafarpur District of Bihar, for several years. He had filed a number of RTI applications on the implementation of the MNREGA and IAY. In a social audit conducted by the Department of Rural Development in September 2011, Ram Kumar Thakur, amongst others, had raised objections to the inclusion of ‘ghost’ names in the muster roll that was read out during the public hearing. This resulted in an uproar and Ram Kumar was beaten by the Mukhiya’s men. Following the incident, an FIR was filed against the perpetrators by the district administration, but no action was taken. Ram Kumar also filed a case with the State Vigilance Commission on the allocation of money and alleged mismanagement of funds by the Mukhiya in the installation of solar lights under the MGNREGS. In December 2012, Ram Kumar Thakur and his family received death threats from the Mukhiya’s son. Ram Kumar Thakur wrote to the DIG of Police asking for protection. Three months passed, the threats continued and no protection was provided. On 23rd March 2013, as Ram Kumar Thakur was returning by cycle from the courts with his nephew, he was shot dead by six men. An FIR stating details of the above was filed in Manihari thaana on 24th March 2013 (FIR No. 4813 of 2013). Despite almost a year having passed and despite an FIR by eyewitnesses, no arrests have been made so far. Ram Kumar is succeeded by his wife, two daughters and a son. His family members have made several trips to Delhi and Patna in search of justice.  

Similarly, Nandi Singh, Lingaraju and scores of others have been killed for raising issues of malgovernance and corruption. Since the advent of the RTI Act, common citizens have been empowered to access information from public authorities, which makes them all into potential whistleblowers. All these people, who died or have been attacked, could have been saved if there were mechanisms in place to respond to complaints of people about mal administration and to protect those who face harassment, threats when they expose these issues.

All the people mentioned, Ram Thakur, Nandi Singh, Shimbu Bishnoi, had raised issues which impacted the public at large. Despite scores of complaints being filed by residents of those villages about the non-delivery of basic rights and entitlements, no action was taken. Frustrated with the lack of response, public spirited individuals escalated the matter to get the administration to respond but had to pay with their lives for challenging powerful, vested interests.

The Grievance Redress bill and the Whistle Blower Protection Bills have been pending in Parliament for more than 3 years. Despite assurances and statements from your party, these bills have not been passed. Without the passage of these legislations the Lokpal law will remain an unfinished measure. To have an anti – corruption legislation without supporting complementary legislation will only make those fighting corruption even more vulnerable. During the logjam of Parliament in which these bills have been stuck, more than 34 people have been killed between 2010 & 2014.

We have seen statements of support from almost all parties for the passage of these Bills and yet, they are not passed. We appeal to you to immediately build a political consensus and ensure their passage. Please do not allow the deaths of more individuals to continue because of other political controversies or interests.

My brother and these whistleblowers had no personal gains to make through their disclosures and struggles against corruption. Being citizens, concerned with the sorry state of affairs, they felt it was their responsibility to speak up against wrongdoing. They all were fighting for the more effective use of public funds. The only thing that will give us a sense of justice will be if we feel that their battle has not been in vain and because of their loss the political class has enacted to make sure others are not threatened. Eventually, that is the only way we can involve all Indians in fighting corruption and control this malice. Do you not think that this is one of our greatest national priorities?

From,

Dhananjay Dubey, Brother of Satyendra Dubey

& relatives of whistleblowers:

Jagdish Bishnoi, Brother of Shimbu Bishnoi

Sanjay Singh, colleague of Ram Thakur

Khokham, brother of Nandi Singh

This letter is endorsed by:

Anjali Bhardwaj, Aruna Roy & Nikhil Dey of the National Campaign for Peoples’ Right to Information (NCPRI)

The letter was sent to-

  1. Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Indian National Congress
  2. Shri Rajnath Singh, Bharatiya Janata Party
  3. Shri Mulayam Singh Yadav, Samajwadi Party
One Comment
Suraj Parkash Tuteja

2014-10-11 22:38:31 Reply

Keep uup the movement, otherwise RTI Act is managed and controlled by the same corrupt bureaucracy. Look all State Commissioners are IAS or IPS, and worst is that all ASPIO’s and SPIO’s are from the same department, and shamelessly without, twist, informations, to protect their own departments. There must be a seperate pnel from people from a separate group not connected with Govt departments, who should collect files and disburse informations. Likewise, penalties on defiant departments must be made mandatory and not left to the whims of the bureaucrats, who donot impose penalties even in 2 % complaints for delayed informations.

SurajParkash

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