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Whistleblowers fear for life

india Updated: Jan 30, 2009 13:53 IST
Nivedita Khandekar

Complainants in various cases pertaining to the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) in recent months have come together with an aim to overcome the sense of insecurity in view of the perceived threat to their life and liberty.

At least eight complainants, who had contributed substantially in sting operations in different cases of corruption by government employees in 2008, held a meeting here last week. The single-point agenda was what could be done in absence of support from ACB officials.

“An ACB official recently told me his higher ups have put restrictions on holding news conferences. This set me thinking about our safety,” said a complainant who had taken on officials from one of the two civic agencies in Delhi. “One of the absconding accused in my case has said he will surrender only after eliminating me,” he added.

When contacted, ACB officials refused to comment on any kind of restrictions.

But another complainant said: “They (the top officials) can stop the ACB people from holding a news conference; they cannot stop us. We can conduct sting operations and approach the media directly.” Officials said if cleared after examination by private experts, the sting operation tapes (audio/visual both) are legally authorised evidence.

Government officials said restrictions on media publicity are in direct contravention to the avowed purpose of bringing in transparency. A July 2008 memorandum from the Department of Personnel and Training about ‘Strengthening of Vigilance Mechanism — Giving wide publicity to government’s anti-corruption policies’, says government agencies can help the media
in fighting corruption by disclosing details about corruption cases regularly.

The memorandum further requested all ministries and departments to continue putting emphasis on anti-corruption mechanisms and give due publicity to various measures taken through both electronic and print media.

“Apparently, the top officials do want any good word by way of people coming forward and helping in exposing corruption. But all of us have decided, we would go ahead come what may,” said a complainant.

(All names withheld to protect identities)