It has been 4 years since Manjunath Shanmugam laid down his life for standing by his principles of honesty and integrity. Today some of us in campus went on a candle light march in memory of Manjunath and took the pledge to uphold the values he stood for and gave his life for – honesty and integrity.
Manjunath’s IIM-L batchmate Akhil spoke briefly about his friend – a normal ordinary guy like us who stood for values. Manjunath gave his life for something that most of us (almost all of us) would consider very petty. He wanted to stop adulteration ring that was adulterating diesel with kerosene. As a Sales officer that was his job. To ensure quality fuel is supplied to consumers at the petrol bunks. Most of us would have considered adulteration a minor deviation. Definitely so if we know the consequences of taking on the powerful mafia. But for Manjunath nothing was more precious than his values, not even his life. He would have surely known that his life would be in danger but still he had the courage and conviction to stand by his principles. And that made this ordinary guy extraordinary.
As we were walking down with the candle light I was asking one question. Would India ever be a corruption free nation? Only this week Transparency International ranked India 84th of 180 countries in its corruption index. Today corruption has become almost institutionalized. We have become so inure to it that we don’t get angry when we see it. We don’t mind paying bribes for ‘convienience’. We get excited when we see our heroes take on corrupt establishment in movies but seldom carry that feeling outside the movie halls. Movies like Ramana and Indian are huge box office hits. But, that our sitting ministers are charged with thousands of crores worth of corruption does not bother us. That our state is held to ransom by three brothers does not enrage us.
This weeks Outlook had this article on how we as a nation is getting used to corruption. http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?262842
Putting a conservative figure pf Rs. 73 lakh crore on the total scam money since 1992, i.e., Rs. 730000000000oo, it states,
“Had Madhu Koda been a chief minister even 25 years back and a Rs 4,000-crore mining scam had been exposed, the entire nation would have been outraged. There would have been rallies in the streets baying for his blood, Parliament would have been up in a storm. And for the guilty, the stigma would have been such they would never live it down. But we are in post-liberalised India now, and the Koda scam will hardly make it a week on the front pages. After all, what’s so novel about it, yet another politician and his chosen few cronies laughing all the way to the Swiss banks while he pillages the state’s precious natural resources on the side? It seems as if the nation now lives from scam to scam, and is cynical enough to know that always the big fish will slip through the net.”
I come back to my question. Can India ever be a corruption free nation? Is there a way forward. Or is it only a free fall from here on.
Jayaprakash Narayan of the Lok Satta Party gives an answer:
“Water at 99 degree Celsius is hot but it has no energy. Add a degree, it starts boiling, develops steam and gains tremendous energy. Just like that, those against corruption need to keep up the struggle. You never know when those few extra degrees may come. After all, the Berlin Wall still came down without a single shot being fired, didn’t it?”
Manjunath was one such individual who made a difference.
I am not sure if a country can ever become corruption free. But I am sure an individual can. You and I can decide to be honest and act with integrity. If an individual can lay down his life for values, we sure can take some ‘inconvienience’ by sticking to our values of honesty and integrity. Manjunath’s courage and conviction should be an inspiration for us in that journey.