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May 08, 2004
Dubey may yet inspire Indian whistleblowers

He had to pay a heavy price, recounts Shetty: “The U.S. Government responded by prosecuting Ellsberg on 12 charges, leading to a total sentence of 115 years if convicted. That was not all. The dirty tricks department at the Nixon White House launched a smear campaign against Ellsberg; engaged the Watergate burglars to break into his psychiatrist’s office in the hope of finding something defamatory; tapped his telephones; engaged thugs to physically attack him; and tried to influence the trial judge with the offer of the post of FBI Director. When these plots were exposed, the judge had to abandon the trial and acquit Ellsberg. Nixon’s machinations against Ellsberg formed the basis of two of the three articles of impeachment against him.”

The purpose of this rather long-winded narration of what happened to Ellsberg, is to give heart to Indians. All this happened just some 30 years ago in a USA that today stands on high moral ground and lectures the world. A 50 year-old Indian democracy need not despair too much. There is already a right to information law in place. Between that, and an emerging whistleblower law, citizens may hope for greater accountability and better governance in India.

Shetty in his fine article says both laws work best in tandem. He says that with the right to information act, ‘Users would have to specify what they wanted to know. But where there is no reason to suspect that something is amiss, no one may bother to ask.’ But whistleblowers could pre-empt disasters. He says,’Without whistleblowers, we may not get to learn about problems until it is time to mourn the consequences.’ A great responsibility is therefore, about to devolve on individual Indians. We are notorious for pointing fingers, plead helplessness and acquire a collective alibi for ‘us ordinary, powerless people’. Indians must now quit this hand-wringing and organise themselves into groups and enter an activist mode.

The pensive gaze on Dubey’s face may not be one of satisfaction due to the fact that he was appreciatively mentioned in the government notification cited in the beginning. He may in fact be beseeching you and me to stop grumbling, complaining and start acting.

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