Corruption is not new in India and has been happening since time immemorial just like most other countries, but with the passage of time the corrupt have become bolder and more brazen, particularly when the law enforcement agencies of the country has colluded with the corrupt and the judiciary has also not been above suspicion of malpractice or not upright enough in upholding the law of the land. It was only a matter of time that the consequences of unabated corruption would hurt the economy and growth of the country as well as its image to the outer world. According to the Transparency International’s ‘Global Corruption Perception Index 2011’, India ranks 95th among 183 countries included in the study, grouping it with other rogue nations. The recent spate of massive corruptions in high places, like the 2G spectrum allocation scam (alleged loss to the national exchequer is 1.76 lakh crore rupees) or the Commonwealth Games scam (alleged loss to the national exchequer is 70,000 crore rupees), within a span of merely few years have ensured that the excessive loss to the national exchequer caused by those plunders would add-up with the downside global market trends and deal a killer blow to the economy, plummeting the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth rate from 9.4% in 2010 to a low of 6.1% in the current year 2012. It must be mentioned here that I am talking about a country where 40% of the population lives below the poverty line, where 60% of the rural population survives on even less than a measly Rupees 35 a day, where one-third of the world’s malnourished children lives and also where over a quarter million farmers commit suicide in a mere span of 16 years.

Apart from the hard facts mentioned in the paragraph above the bit of economical statistics provided is going to be no less than some intricate statistical jargon of the elite for the common men, who is already reeling from the high inflation and skyrocketing prices of food items and other essential commodities, prevailing for the past few years, without which a person cannot survive. The common man of India has already been used to a life where practically nothing moves without paying bribes to the person of authority, be it just getting a file passed in a government office or department, getting an FIR or passport verification from the police station, getting a hospital bed in renowned government hospitals, getting their wards admitted in reputed educational institutions,…the list is endless. Many people are not even spared after their deaths as their relatives were made to pay a bribe to the concerned doctor or officer to get a death certificate. This abysmal state of corruption prevailing in the country, combined with a double-digit inflation, unemployment, poverty and various other detrimental factors have made the life of the common Indian absolutely miserable!

Sadly corruption in India is a very complex matter and is a multi-faceted problem spreading across numerous diverse fields of work, business, or livelihood activities and stretch from the streets to the highest echelons of power. If we were to just consider the black money issue that is recently in the news for all wrong reasons, then we would get a hint of the complexity of the problem. According to the Swiss banking officials, the largest depositors of illegal foreign money in Switzerland are Indians. Not only is this bit of information extremely damaging for the overall image and transparency of the country, but also the shameful attitude of the Central Government of India of not disclosing the names of the cheaters of the country’s money under flimsy excuses is utterly disgusting. Even though there is no exact estimate of the amount of black money stashed abroad by Indians but some estimates range it to the extent of trillions of dollars. Even the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) own estimates is 500 billion dollars. It is needless to say that many of those looters of the country’s wealth are very influential people, who have cronies in high places of governance protecting their interests and identity.

Even though the Politicians might be the most popular choice as culprits of corruption and rightly so, but bureaucrats, government officers, businessman, realtors or even doctors are also not far behind in terms of spreading the network of corruption across the length and breadth of India and forming an unholy nexus among themselves to defeat any honest effort to expose and nab them by certain sections of society and media. But Politicians are certainly the biggest culprits as they are the ones who run the country and if they continue to loot the country’s wealth in this way and let their cronies in the feast to share the booty then there isn’t much left to be said. No single Political party can claim to be holier than thou in this regard as all of them have their hands in the till. Politicians from political parties spread across the spectrum has been mired in numerous scams both in the center and the states for the past several years, opening our eyes to the fact that presently Politics has become a real tainted field of so-called public service!

In such a grim and depressing scenario both for the country and its populace, what was the need of the hour was the infusion of more honest people within the system, both in government and society to take on the corrupt head-on and do their job fearlessly. It happened so exactly that way and particularly after the ‘Right to Information Act, 2005’ came in effect, which allowed the common citizen of the country access to information under the control of a public authority. But the corrupt were not eager to let go of their illegal wealth and ostentations that easily and they decided to target the brave hearts, taking them out one by one in a mysterious co-incidence of chilling chain of utter shocking events that places the real sense of democracy and transparency in the country under serious question. Therefore the corrupt has been successful so far in their mission of instilling a fear of death, insecurity or total helplessness in the mind of those who dares to take on the corrupt, making sure that less and less people traversed this thorny-path that has sudden and gruesome death lurking in every bit of the way.

As an Indian I salute the valiant people, who dared to dream of a different India, an India that is free in real sense of the term and worked intrepidly towards realizing that goal till they were snuffed out by hired goons of the corrupt. Here are a few such examples:

(1) Yashwant Sonawane

Yashwant Sonawane was the Additional District Collector of Malegaon (Maharashtra), who had to pay with his life for honestly doing his duty. On 25th January 2011 while going to a meeting on the way he noticed a few trucks parked side by side suspiciously near a roadside eatery close to the depots of IOC, HPCL and BPCL. On further investigation he found that the trucks were stealing Kerosene from the government oil tankers that were meant for PDS (Public Distribution System). The area was already infamous for the illegal operation of the Oil Adulteration Mafia and such pilferage were not something uncommon. He even took pictures of the illegal act on his mobile phone as evidence. But when he tried to stop the gang of criminals he was beaten very badly by the perpetrators and set on fire after dousing kerosene on him. Even while fully ablaze Sonawane was able to grab the prime accused named Popat Shinde and didn’t let go of him. Sonawane received 80% burn injuries from the ghastly act but Shinde also received 70% burn injuries. While Sonawane died on arrival at the hospital from the fatal burn injuries he received, like a martyr to the ongoing humongous battle against corruption in India, his killer died a week later though in the hospital, like a coward, fallen prey to his own crime!

(2) Amit Jethwa

Amit Jethwa was an environmentalist, social worker and RTI (Right to Information) activist, whose area of activity was primarily the Gir Forest area near Junagarh Gujarat. Jethwa had always been a vehement voice of protest against the prevailing illegal mining, encroachment of forestland and poaching in the Gir Forest area. He had some uneasy exchanges with local mighty politicians towards his quest for justice and restoration of the environment. One particular MP belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party of India (BJP) took real offence to his court cases and RTI (Right to Information) applications exposing the level of corruption prevailing in the protected forest area. On 20th July 2010 he was shot dead from very close range by two unidentified assailants on a motorbike.

(3) Narendra Kumar Singh

Narendra Kumar Singh was an IPS (Indian Police Service) officer renowned for his honesty and sincerity on duty, posted in the Morena district of Madhya Pradesh, prior to his untimely death. The region of his work was infamous for the illegal mining mafia that enjoyed powerful political patronage. On March 8, 2012, while the hole of India was reveling in the festival of Holi, Narendra Kumar was being crushed under the wheels of a tractor-trolley carrying illegally quarried stones that he was trying to stop. He was only 30 years of age with a long bright career ahead of him that was snuffed out by the henchmen of the corrupt, who operate without fear in corrupt India!

(4) S. P. Mahantesh

S.P. Mahantesh was a Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS) officer, working as the Deputy Director of the Audit wing of the Karnataka Co-operative Department. While auditing various house building Co-operative societies he found serious financial irregularities ranging to several crores of rupees, where corrupt officials of such Co-operative societies and dishonest politicians were directly involved. He dared to expose such a huge scam and paid with his life for being a whistleblower. On the night of May 15, 2012, he was attacked by a group of unidentified people, who beat up Mahantesh severely. He received grievous head injuries from the brutal assault and died in the hospital after fighting a losing battle with death for five days.

(5) Satyendra Dubey

Satyendra Dubey was a civil engineering graduate from IIT (Indian Institue of Technology), Kanpur working as a project director at the National Highways Authority of India. He was assigned to a very important project by the NHAI known as the Golden Quadrilateral, which was a network of highways connecting the four most important metropolises of the country: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. While doing his duty Dubey got a first-hand experience of the rampant corruption and poor implementation of work prevailing in the sector of his work that was a direct handiwork of the powerful road contract mafia, which included an array of people spreading various fields of activity holding high positions of power. To expose and ultimately arrest the corruption he forwarded a letter to the then Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, detailing the financial and contractual irregularities taking place in the GQ project. He also made a special request in the later to keep his name secret for security reasons. But the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) neither heeded to his suggestions nor his plea, rather they circulated the letter to various other departments that even got Dubey a reprimand from the NHAI. The outcome of this utter callousness was that a year later on 27th November 2003, Satyendra Dubey was murdered under mysterious circumstances in Gaya, Bihar. Later the CBI tried to botch up the murder investigation furnishing dubious proofs intentionally and ultimately succeeded in their attempt.

I could just go on and on like this. So many names to mention, so many losses to count, so many heroes to salute and sigh about, so many stories to tell. Stories of brave hearts laid to rest untimely by those who doesn’t deserve to live a free life in a country that claims to give equal opportunity and freedom to everybody. Are we getting used to such regular disturbing news like other breaking news on the media? Do we want a better future for the posterity or an era where the looters of the country will be king and queens? We need to ask these questions to ourselves as citizens of an abysmally corrupt country, where honesty is fast becoming a ‘taboo’ word!