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Is anybody listening?

There’s something rotten in the state of West Bengal where a BDO was found hanging last week. He was facing enormous political pressure for filing FIRs against politicians.

india Updated: May 12, 2008 23:09 IST

There’s something rotten in the state of West Bengal — or in the state of India, depending on where you want to lay the blame. Kallol Sur, a 30-year-old Block Development Officer (BDO) in West Bengal’s West Midnapur district was found hanging last week. While officials and the police were double-quick to ‘confirm’ a ‘suicide’, Sur’s family suspects foul play. With no real post-mortem conducted and Sur’s body not handed over to his family, foul play can’t be ruled out. In fact, it becomes more of a possibility when one considers that Sur was, according to his parents, facing “enormous political pressure” after he filed FIRs against local CPI(M) and Trinamool leaders for reportedly siphoning off funds from development schemes like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). If those whose job it is to ensure that such an important scheme is not misused end up the way Sur has, there is little hope for any ‘system’ working, however well-intentioned it may be.

Both the CPI(M) and the Trinamool apparently responded by harassing him. But Sur refused to back down. Instead of shielding him, his superiors, according to Sur’s father, made his life tougher. The ‘suicide’ theory looks even more bogus considering the fact that Sur wrote a letter to his father about the ‘evil nexus’ between his superior, the panchayat and police days before his death. In the meantime, his parents run from pillar to post to find justice. No one in Kolkata or in Delhi seems to have time for them. Speaking the truth and taking a stand against corruption have proved costly for people like Sur. In 2003, National Highway Authority of India engineer Satyendra Dubey was killed after he complained against dodgy contracts. Two years later, Shanmugam Manjunath, a marketing engineer for the Indian Oil Corporation, was murdered for sealing a petrol station in UP that was selling adulterated oil.

Crores of public money have been pumped into the central government’s showcase development schemes. If they have any leg to stand on, it is by making their implementation workable. Leaks in the payment delivery pipeline have to be plugged — through smart cards and by listening to whistleblowers. And brave people like Sur, who were doing their jobs for the nation, must be firmly supported by the powers that be.