Daijiworld Media Network
May 24: In a country like India which is plagued with most things wrong where political, public and bureaucratic corruption is at its zenith it is nice to find a couple whistleblowers whose courage, honesty and determination to fight against odds has resulted in public good. These whistleblowers play a major role in fighting corruption and often pay a heavy price in the form of their lives. The recent death of KAS officer of Karnataka S P Mahanthesh, said to be a whistleblower in some controversial land allotments by cooperative societies in Karnataka, paints a grim picture of the situation.
When we talk about whistleblowers we are often reminded about heroes like Jayant M Tinaikar, S R Hiremath, Tapal Ganesh, G R Khairnar, late Sathya Prakash Dube, and now late Mahanthesh, to name a few. It may be remembered here that but for the efforts of an activist S R Hiremath and a mine owner Tapal Ganesh, the rampant illegal mining in Karnataka would not have been exposed. And who can forget Jayant M Tinaikar’s relentless crusade against stamp paper kingpin Telgi that resulted in his arrest and G R Khairnar (who can forget him) nicknamed as the ‘one-man-demolition-army’ of Mumbai for his gutsy act of demolishing about 30 illegal buildings belonging to underworld don Dawood Ibrahim in the early 90’s. People like these are like a panacea to this country plagued with many diseases and the society as a whole has benefitted by their altruistic service.
Tinaikar’s Mission Impossible
But for the efforts of one man Jayant M Tinaikar of Khanpur District of Belgaum, stamp paper kingpin Abdul Kareem Telgi would have continued with his multi-crore fake stamp paper racquet causing huge loss to the country’s exchequer. Tinaikar’s efforts resulted in the government confiscating property worth Rs. 4000 crores and succeeding in putting behind bars about 400 people involved in the scandal.
Tinaikar and Telgi were born and brought up in Khanpur where Tinaikar was running a family-run hotel and Telgi was selling fruits on the footpaths of Khanpur and leading a hand-to mouth existence. Telgi who had disappeared all of a sudden had returned after a few years and he aroused Tinaikar’s suspicion when he went on a buying spree immovable property at prices much higher than the market price. Once Tinaiker got a clue that something was drastically wrong he did not relax.
For seven long years starting from 1996 he knocked at the doors of all concerned officials and even wrote to the President but received no response. Undaunted, he continued his crusade and his efforts bore fruit when Telgi was arrested in 2001 in Ajmer, Rajasthan by the then Police Commissioner of Bangalore H T Sangliana acting on a tip-off given by Tinaikar. Though he faced death threats Tinaikar continued with his battle spending his own money and almost became a bankrupt by the end of his crusade. In return all he got was a reward of a paltry sum of Rs. 2000 from the government, for saving several hundred crores of revenue, which Tinaikar refused to accept.
Despite facing such iniquitous treatment and threats to his life Tinaikar has continued with his battle. He now heads a social organization “Save India Mission” and fights against corruption. In October last he has filed a complaint to Lokayukta against Belgaum DC against illegal conversion of agricultural land. Despite the authorities dampening his spirit with their apathetic behavior and attitude Tinaikar continues with his campaign and is a role model to all.
Khairnar’s take on underworld mafia
Govind Ragho Khairnar, Mumbai’s demolition man became a phenomenon when as Dy Commissioner of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation by launching a crusade against corruption and at the same time highlighting the role of BMC and the state government in aiding and supporting corruption. He began his demolition drive of illegal structures allegedly belonging to Dawood Ibrahim in Mumbai in 1992. The move brought him in confrontation with the city mafia and the builders’ lobby and very often he had to wage a lone battle without government support. Due to uncompromising drive on demolition drive he became a persona-non-grata with then CM Sharad Pawar who suspended him on the flimsy grounds of over-stepping his authority. Maharashtra strongman Sharad Pawar even lost some of the assembly seats after Khairnar went public calling him corrupt and unethical. This was repeated during the BJP-Sena rule earning him the wrath of the Shiva Sena.
At a time when the very name of Dawood was making people shudder Khairnar had the zeal, the drive and the tenacity to take on the underworld mafia headlong. For his bold initiative what he got in return was suspension by Sharad Pawar and subsequently removal from service. After a prolonged battle of eight years and facing lot of harassment from various lobbyists and those in power he was re-instated in 2002 when he had only one and half months of service left to his credit. This was despite the High Court ordering his reinstallation which the government refused to comply with.
Hiremath the Hero
We have our mining whistleblower in S R Hiremath, an activist who relentlessly pursued his battle against illegal mining in Karnataka. It was a petition filed by Hiremath along with his two friends Prof Vishnu Kamat and Ravi Kangavi in SC in 2009 that resulted in SC cancelling the mining license given to Janardhana Reddy in Bellary and his imprisonment thereafter. Based on his PIL the SC ordered setting up of Central Empowered Committee (CEC) which recommended a CBI probe into alleged kickbacks received by the relatives of former chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa . The recent raid CBI on the premises/offices of Yeddyurappa and his kin are due to the relentless efforts of Hiremath. It was not an easy task considering that Hiremath was battling against the rich and the powerful who had everything at their disposal – power, money and muscle power.
He collected documents worth thousands of pages before filing his PIL in SC which had nailed both Yeddyurappa and Reddy brothers and these documents proved vital in the CBI initiating action against these culprits. Of course the experience of working as an activist for more than 30 years was his main strength in his pursuit to bring the guilty to book. Hiremath, an Engineering graduate had worked in USA for 10 years before returning to India in 1979. After his return he founded India Development Service and also a NGO Samaja Parivarthana Samudaya (SPS) in 1984 through which he led several movements related to environment, panchayatraj institutions and against corruption. Needless to say he gave many sleepless nights to Yeddyurappa and is the hero who put an end to the looting of the state by the mining lobby.
Hiremath is not resting on his accomplishments. Soon after CBI raided the premises of Yeddyurappa, he has let another bombshell by demanding sacking of about 700 officials indicted in the Lokayukta report on illegal mining. ADGP Satyanarayana and DIG Arun Chakravarthy, KMF Chairman Somashekara Reddy etc., are some of the top officials indicted in the Lokayukta report. How the present chief minister faces this salvo fired by Hiremath remains to be seen. SPS now wants to approach the SC to completely ban mining in Bellary and other parts of Karnataka.
The role of mine owner Tapal Ganesh in exposing the illegal mining in Karnataka also cannot be ignored. Though he began to fight back only after the Reddy brothers had trespassed into his mining area and altered the state’s boundary with AP, he did not succumb to the pressure and power tactics of Reddy brothers. He faced the wrath of his actions as an eight-member gang made a murderous attack on him and his brother in 2010. What a price one pays for taking on the rich and the powerful!
All these whistle blowers had to go through an odyssey while trying to expose the wrong doings of those in power and many of them faced threats to their lives and survived fatal attacks. Some even paid with their lives. Remember Sathyenda Dubey, an IIT Khanpur alumni and project director National Highways Authority India? This 30 year old brilliant youngster was murdered in Gaya Bihar for fighting corruption in the Golden Quadrilateral highway construction project. Some of his senior officials at NHAI are said to have played a role in eliminating him. Now, Mahanthesh has become another victim for exposing controversial land allotments in cooperative societies in Karnataka. There have been many RTI activists all over the country who have been eliminated systematically in the last few years by those who were affected by their unrelenting crusades.
We need many more whistleblowers like these to keep a tab on the corrupt activities of our politicians and bureaucrats and all those who are hand in glove with them. Knowing that our system is nasty to whistleblowers a Whistleblower Protection Act was passed in Lok Sabha in 2011 but got stalled in Rajya Sabha. Whether it will be implemented and if so is it going to make any difference is remains to be seen. It is our duty to ensure that the sacrifices and efforts of many activists who have striven hard to expose corruption do not go waste.
People like Hiremath, Tinaikar etc., have shown that common people can take on the might of the wealthy and powerful. We must thank ourselves we had such saviors amidst us who saved us from plunderers.