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Whistleblower Act: Honest lives lost, protective law yet to see the light of day



By NewsGram Staff Writer

Prashant Pandey, the whistleblower who exposed the “Vyapam Scam” is scared for his life.

The tense situation Pandey finds himself in, is due to the removal of security cover accorded by the Delhi Police under the direction of the Delhi High Court.

According to a Delhi Police official, the reason for the withdrawal of Pandey’s security is that the petition had been disposed off and, in the final order, there was no mention of any security to be provided to him.

“There is no security from Delhi Police. The security personnel have been withdrawn. I fear for my security and for my family,” said Pandey while talking to PTI.

The digital forensics expert from Madhya Pradesh is known for uncovering the massive admission and recruitment scam in Madhya Pradesh which involved businessmen, politicians and other renowned senior officials.

After the unearthing of the scam in 2013, the Medical Council of India and the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board were also served notices by the Madhya Pradesh High Court.

Following the astounding disclosure, the whistleblower had a miraculous escape from the jaws of death, when a truck hit his car on the Indore-Mhow earlier this month.

Pandey also claims that he was framed by a senior IPS officer for allegedly possessing Call Data Records(CDR) of many individuals, following which he was arrested by the Bhopal Police in August last year.

Moreover, the state government filed a report in the Delhi High Court saying that Pandey holds a criminal background.

Such a desperate reaction by the state government comes after the Madhya Pradesh High Court-appointed Special Investigation Team(SIT), while being supervised by the state’s Special Task Force, discovered the role of senior state government officials and politicians in the scam.

Such a state-led backlash on exposers of truth is not an isolated case of the apathy with which the whistleblowers are treated in the country.

Earlier, in November 2003, Satyendra Dubey, a National Highways Authority of India(NHAI) engineer was murdered after he exposed corruption in the construction of highways.

According to the data compiled by Bloomberg, at least 12 whistleblowers have been killed since January 2010. More than 40 people have been assaulted for seeking information.

Niyamat Ansari, a Jharkhand resident who registered complaints against the winning bidders of the public-works contract under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, was dragged from his house and beaten to death.

In spite of such overwhelming cases of gruesome crimes committed against whistleblowers, little action has been undertaken by the government to protect the rights of whistleblowers.

The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, a law meant to empower and protect people who report corruption, was passed by the Lok Sabha in 2011 but is still awaiting amendments in the Rajya Sabha.

As per activists, even if the law is passed, it is virtually toothless.

The law does not provide any protection to whistleblowers who disclose information under the Officials Secrets Act, a law which covers documents classified by the government, including defense deals.

Moreover, information termed as “unwarranted invasion of privacy”, will also not be covered under the act.

“The government is going back on its basic moral obligation of protecting whistleblowers,” said Anjali Bharadwaj of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information to NDTV.

Foreign countries hold a lesson for India in this regard. Strong anti-corruption laws such as the UK Bribery Act and US Corrupt Practices Act curtail the hedonist behaviour to an extent.

In the United Kingdom, The Public Interest Disclosure Act has given significant protection to the whistleblower from the employer.

The United States provides protection from retaliation in cases where whistleblowing is related to a specific topic protected by statute.

India on the other hand, is still struggling hard to put a worthwhile whistleblower protection legislation on the table.

How many more honest lives can India afford to lose, before it wakes up from its slumber?

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Come April, government will be more comfortable in Rajya Sabha

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs

Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
  • In April, the opposition may lose its edge over BJP in Rajya Sabha
  • NDA led by Modi has faced many embarrassments in Rajya Sabha in past few years
  • This is expected to change soon

Come April, the opposition in the Rajya Sabha may lose its edge in the numbers game and the power to stall any government bill, as the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition is set to catch up with its rivals, though a clear majority will elude them for a while more.

BJP to soon get more comfortable in  Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia commons
BJP to soon get more comfortable in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

As 58 MPs, including three Nominated and one Independent, are set to retire in April, the Rajya Sabha math is going to change. It is set to favour the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the trend may continue in the elections to the Upper House later too with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having solid majorities in a number of state assemblies, especially the ones it won after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With this, while the Congress-led opposition’s numbers will come down to around 115 from the present 123, the numbers of the BJP, its allies and sympathisers together would climb to around 109 from the present 100-odd members.

And the gap, once wide enough to let the opposition invariably have its say, will keep narrowing further in the coming months.

Of the 55 retiring members (excluding those Nominated), 30 belong to the opposition camp while 24 belong to the BJP and allies. Of them, a large number of NDA candidates are set to return while the opposition will lose a chunk of its members.

As things stand now, the Congress-led opposition has 123 MPs (including 54 of the Congress) in a house of 233 elected members (apart from 12 Nominated), while the NDA has 83 members (including 58 of BJP) plus four Independents who support the BJP (these include MPs Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Subhash Chandra, Sanjay Dattatraya Kakade and Amar Singh).

Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.
Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.

Also, for all practical purposes, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), that has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, is also with the NDA. This means the NDA’s effective strength in the upper house of Parliament is 100.

The gap was wider till just a few months ago. This meant that during any battle between the government and the opposition in the Upper House over bills and major issues, it was the opposition that invariably had its way. The recent example was the triple talaq legislation that the opposition stalled in the upper house, demanding that it be referred to a Select Committee.

For over less than four years, the Narendra Modi government had faced quite a few embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha thanks to the majority of the opposition, forcing it often to take the money bill route to avoid a clash in the house. Under the Constitution, a money bill needs to be passed only in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cannot stall it.

Also Read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

However, after April, the NDA will be in a far better position.

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs (including AIADMK). But at least 30 from the NDA are set to get re-elected. So the number will rise to 106. Add three members that the government would nominate to the upper house and the final NDA tally will roughly be 109 MPs.

Further, there are fence-sitters such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the YSR Congress, which are not virulently against the BJP and would not oppose the government unless for very compelling reasons.

Now, for the Congress and the rest of the opposition, they are set to lose 30 MPs (including one Independent, A.V. Swamy) through retirement and would be left with around 93 members. The Opposition may win roughly 22 seats, which means that its final tally after April is likely to be around 115 members.

Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.
Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.

The gap has clearly narrowed and the government may not be at the mercy of the opposition during crucial votes and can have its way in the Rajya Sabha if it musters its numbers by deftly wooing “floater” MPs.

The three newly-elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members may remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress, though the party is friendly with some of the major opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress.

Also Read: BJP MP Seeks Amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill

In an interesting development recently, the AAP actively participated in the opposition’s walkout and the day-long boycott of the Rajya Sabha over long intra-day adjournments of the Upper House by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

The AAP, which was not welcome at any opposition meetings earlier, particularly those held in Parliament House, was invited to speak at a joint opposition media interaction on the day. But nobody can be sure as to how long this bonding would last.

Partywise tally of those retiring in April-May from the opposition’s side include 13 from the Congress, six from the Samajwadi Party, three of the Trinamool Congress, two each of the Nationalist Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal and one each of the CPI-M, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons
NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

From the ruling side, 17 MPs of the BJP, three of the Janata Dal United, one of the Shiv Sena and two of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are retiring.

In terms of state-wise vacancies to be created in April, the highest number is from Uttar Prdaesh (9), followed by Maharashtra (6), Madhya Pradesh (5), Bihar (5), Gujarat (4), Karnataka (4), West Bengal (4), Rajasthan (3), Odisha (3), Andhra Pradesh (3), Telangana (2), Uttarakhand (1), Himachal Pradesh (1) and Chhattisgarh (1). IANS