Holding Out Alone...
- Whistleblowers have to brave threats when exposing corruption
- Prof Kumar of IIT Kharagpur has been suspended for exposing irregularities at IITs and in the entrance test
- His complaint is with the CVC
- Sajib Nandi, the whistleblower who is trying to unveil systematic doping at SAI, also faces threats
- A bill for the protection of whistleblowers who expose corruption hasn’t been passed yet
That whistleblowers face adversaries and live under constant threat is a given. In the last two months, two whistleblowers have been doggedly fighting against all odds—and with no law to protect them. Meet Prof Rajiv Kumar of IIT Kharagpur. Using RTI, he exposed irregularities in the IIT-JEE, the entrance test for admissions. He pointed out flaws in the setting of question papers and the evaluation of answer sheets. He also highlighted the lack of transparency and accountability, and the selection of IIT administrators’ wards in some IITs by filling up vacant seats through illegal admissions.
For his efforts, Kumar was suspended. On July 18, Kumar sent a complaint to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), detailing financial and administrative irregularities, that says: “I, a professor of Computer Science & Engineering (CSE) at IIT Kharagpur, have emerged as an RTI activist and a whistleblower by applications of the RTI Act in exposing several academic and financial frauds at IIT Kharagpur during the past five years. Out of vengeance for my RTI work and due to complicity of many top administrators, I was suspended, without a showcause, on May 13 this year.”
The letter goes on to say: “The chargesheet is false, frivolous, malafide and motivated. I have been making constant endeavours tenaciously for strengthening systems and enhancing quality through enforcing transparency, accountability and adoption of fair and well-defined processes and practices. My efforts have led to much improvement of the system and today’s IIT-JEE and other examinations are much improved and transparent.” Kumar now faces the ire of top administrators. “I have been asked not to speak to the media, but I just would like to say one thing: I will not give up,” he says. “The charges I face are frivolous and baseless.”
Prof Rajiv Kumar of IIT Kharagpur. (Photograph by Sandipan Chatterjee)
The suspended professor has been directed to report to the officiating registrar, Dr T.K. Ghoshal. According to Kumar’s complaint to the CVC, he is getting threats from these very people. “He (Ghoshal) had repeatedly threatened me during disposal of RTI appeals. Dr Ghosal is acquiring my call details and having total surveillance on me, leading to enhanced threat,” says Kumar in his complaint. Interestingly, Dr Ghosal’s appointment as officiating registrar is already under the CVC’s scanner.
Will men like Prof Kumar ever get legal protection? The whistleblower’s bill is under consideration of Parliament and seeks to protect and reward those who expose corruption. But over the years, the government has shown little concern towards those who acutally expose corrupt practices. Says lawyer and activist Shanti Bhushan, “The whistleblower plays a very important role. He gives information from within the system. This is a very vital base for investigation. Many whistleblowers and RTI activists have been facing problems. There are situations where it is difficult for them to seek police protection. Therefore, we do need some kind of legal shelter.”
Cut to Dr Sajib Nandi, the whistle-blower in the doping controversy involving the Sports Authority of India (SAI). He has been running from pillar to post for the past two months to lodge an FIR since he’s been getting constant threats. He wants police protection for himself and his family. Says Nandi, “I could not lodge an FIR. My complaint was not taken up. I get threatening calls that I will be finished. I don’t fear for myself, but I want to ensure the safety of my family.”
Nandi reiterates that such death threats will not deter him or stop him from exposing the goings-on at SAI. But shouldn’t a law ensure that people like Kumar and Nandi are sheltered by more than just their own determination?