Whistleblower: To be or not to be Is being a ‘crusader’ safe in India…. let’s find out…
“WE ALWAYS EXPECT TREMENDOUS CRITICISM. IT IS MY ROLE TO BE THE LIGHTNING ROD …IF JOURNALISM IS GOOD, IT IS CONTROVERSIAL, BY ITS NATURE” – JULIAN ASSANGE
The other day, while surfing through the news channels, a story regarding a latest sting operation conducted upon a particular political party by a news website fell into my ten-year-old nephew’s ears. Now as kids are always curious to know about something which is ‘investigative’ in nature, he too put a large bag of his queries in front of me. With all patience, I attended to all his doubts and informed him about the said sting operation carried out on some of the corrupt politicians. After a little pause, with a grave look on his face, the little boy asked me who the ‘whistleblower’ actually was, as he perceived and visualized with this term was a ‘referee in his school ground’ who controlled a particular game or an action and blew one’s ‘whistle’ if found any foul play to attract everyone’s attention so that there was no chance of any immoral act.
To provide him with adequate and convincing information, I consulted ‘Wikipedia’ to understand the meaning of the term- ‘Whistleblower’ as I too wondered where it actually originated from. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the term whistle-blower actually comes from the whistle a referee uses to indicate an illegal or foul play. US civic activist Ralph Nader is said to have coined the phrase, but he in fact put a positive spin on the term in the early 1970s to avoid the negative connotations found in other words such as “informers” and “snitches”.
So precisely, it can be understood that a whistleblower is a person who exposes any kind of information or an activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within an organization that is either private or public. The information of alleged wrongdoing can be classified in many ways: violation of company policy/rules, law, regulation, or threat to public interest/national security, as well as fraud, and corruption.
The ‘enquiry’ didn’t end here. My composure and contentment turned pale and gloomy the moment he asked with his eyes wide open in anxiety and concern about the safety and protection of whistleblowers and activists. I assured him that it is always right to raise voice against ‘something wrong or foul’, and no one can harm a right person because all holy books preach one thing in common and that is, “Goodness and Truth Prevail”.
Oh Really…??? Is this ‘actually’ possible and easy to expose any kind of activity or information that is ethically not right?? Is it really ‘safe’ to be a ‘whistleblower’ or a ‘campaigner’?? Isn’t there a constant life threat to them??And, why after all, the ‘Bad’ is more powerful than the ‘Good’?? How and from where does ‘Bad’ get all the courage to commit ‘something wrong’?? And why is ‘Good’ not ‘That’ powerful and ‘Free’ to raise voice against ‘Bad’?? And, if so, why always ‘Good’ has to think about safety?? And, why, after all ‘Good’ is unsafe?? He asked.
I told him that in India, for the protection of Whistleblowers, there is a Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011.This is an Act of the Parliament of India which provides a mechanism to investigate alleged corruption and misuse of power by public servants and also protect anyone who exposes alleged wrongdoing in government bodies, projects and offices. The wrongdoing might take the form of fraud, corruption or mismanagement. The Act will also ensure punishment for false or frivolous complaints.
The Act was approved by the Cabinet of India as part of a drive to eliminate corruption in the country’s bureaucracy and passed by the Lok Sabha on 27 December 2011. The Bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on 21 February 2014 and received the President’s assent on 9 May 2014.
But, isn’t there a large gap between ‘what should be’ and ‘what actually is’?? Ethically, no wrongdoing or illegal act is expected from a responsible individual, but if caught and exposed during any foul play by a whistleblower, atleast there should be a ‘guarantee’ for the voiceraiser’s life. Are their lives’ safety guaranteed and protected against the constant threats?? My little nephew’s endless queries actually put a big question mark on the safety and protection provided by the government for these ‘crusaders’.
IF WE GO INTO OUR HISTORY, WE CAN SEE HOW MUCH WHISTLEBLOWERS AND THEIR FAMILIES HAVE SUFFERED AND SACRIFICED FOR THE SAKE OF PROTECTING, HONOURING AND MAINTAINING ‘TRUTH’, ‘HONESTY’, ‘LAW’, ‘DISCIPLINE’ AND ‘GOODNESS’ OF THE SOCIETY AND SYSTEM. THE WHOLE SYSTEM WOULD HAVE CRASHED IN THE ABSENCE OF SUCH PEOPLE. THEY MAY NECESSARILY NOT BE OFFICE BEARERS BUT THEY FEEL AND CONSIDER THEMSELVES RESPONSIBLE DUE TO THEIR RESPECT FOR THEIR SYSTEM, FOR THEIR COUNTRY.
IF A CHILD CAN UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF THE PHRASE “TRUTH AND GOODNESS SHOULD PREVAIL”, WHY CAN’T WE?? OR RATHER, AS ANDY BIERSACK QUOTES, “STAND UP FOR WHAT YOU BELIEVE IN, EVEN IF IT MEANS STANDING ALONE…”
( The views are of the author)