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Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

He dared, he fought, he won

Can you and I make a difference? Can we fight the system? Can hope and honesty stop injustice? As the nation turns 61, Hindustan Times brings you five profiles of people who did.

india Updated: Aug 15, 2008 23:36 IST
Nivedita Khandekar
Nivedita Khandekar
Hindustan Times

In May 1984, Vijay Saluja, an engineer in New Delhi Municipal Corporation, wrote a note to his boss, the Chief Engineer (Civil), pointing out several faults in a building project the corporation had just completed. “I gave full details of what was wrong,” he recalled. His boss did not bother to reply.

That started off a crusade which would continue till Saluja retired in 2004. The enemies he made in the corporation, following his campaign, had him transferred 14 times in these 20 years. On six occasions, needless posts being specially created for him, to ensure he would have no work. Adverse entries were made in his Annual Confidential Report, following which all his promotions were delayed.

But 63-year-old Saluja remains unfazed. “When I was victimised it only made me stronger. If I had to live my life again, I’d do the same.”

This IIT alumnus spurned private company offers to join the NDMC in 1969, hoping to contribute to national development. He was soon disillusioned. “Zeal and idealism were missing,” he said.

When his note, pointing to the frauds being committed all around had no effect, he wrote many more. Taking great care to abide by the conduct rules, he kept writing to one higher authority after another. It got him nowhere. Finally in early 1992, Saluja complained to the Chief Vigilance Commissioner. The CVC advised him to go to high court. He filed a petition in 1992, pointing out specific instances of fraud and embezzlement in the NDMC, apart from the injustice the corporation had done to him personally.

The court awarded him punitive damages, but the NDMC still remained unmoved. Saluja had to file a contempt petition to force the NDMC to obey the orders. He was finally made chief engineer, a position he should have ascended to much earlier, 20 days before his retirement. “Our system is such that people who want to do good work are just not allowed to.”