By Manav Garg:
In US congress, July 4, 1776.
‘..That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to…’
The preamble of one of the “greatest” democracies in the world gives its citizens the rights to go against the whims of the Government and protect the virtues on which the nation was built. But the world today is undergoing a period of hidden and mutilated despotism, where-in, revealing the evil of a democratic government leads to punishment and pain.
The role of a democratically elected government is to maintain a certain standard of transparency in its activities. As citizens, we deserve to know, not simply because of the taxes that are used in these activities, and burn a hole in our pockets, but also on purely ethical grounds, where by virtue of being the electorate, we have the right to complete information on the activities of our government to judge their working and vote intelligently for future governments. If democracies round the world keep hiding scams and other illegal practices behind the veil of ‘national security’, how will citizens ever bust them for bad governance? Vijay Bhadur Singh (at the Indian Finance Ministry) revealed the manipulation in the finance ministry, and received the PGCT award later. Such acts of whistle blowing help the society improve.
The attitude that countries adopt while dealing with whistleblowers showcases their anti-democratic nature. Framing them as ‘enemies of the nation’, governments charge them with criminal procedures and dragging them into court for various sentences. Such citizens are forced to flee, and look for asylum in the few nations like Iceland or Hong Kong that readily champion the cause of free speech and information, hoping they prevent strong international powers like the USA from catching hold of them.
Not just powerful national governments, but whistle blowing is seen as a crime even at smaller levels, be it reporting corruption details in government machinery, or forcing persecution of criminals by use of secret evidence by other citizens. In our own nation, the numbers of whistleblower incidents are very few, while the magnitude of corruption and similar activities is magnanimous. Why do we see so few Dinesh Thakurs, who reported the false certification documents that Ranbaxy India used?
One reason is the legal system does very little to protect those who blow the lid. Over eight years ago, a provision was stated in corporate law to enable whistle blowing, post the murder of Satyendra Dubey, who blew the lid on a NHAI scam. Why has this move never come into place?
When I hear of Bradley Manning or Edward Snowden, hiding from US security agencies, or fighting trials in court — sacrificing salaries as high as 20,000 USD, and risking the peace of their families – just to ensure that the evils of a government are exposed, I draw a parallel to the greatest heroes of all times. Heroes like these deserve protection from the law, and recognition from the people.
Manning and Snowden managed recognition all right, but are their sacrifices going to be just a small hurdle in the path of despotic governments, or will this enable more and more people to come out an blurt out the truth?