In a world which glorifies vigilantism, how many people would come forward to expose a crime putting their lives and safety at stake? In last week’s Saturday Poll, we asked you whether you would expose a corrupt authority if you had evidence against them and what factor would influence your decision most. A meagre 8% of the 26 poll takers said they would do so regardless of the repercussions because it would be the right thing to do. This is not surprising in a country that is considered to be among the most corrupt. Our government officials possess enormous discretionary and arbitrary powers that they have often been used in unfair and unjust manners.
Putting aside the ideal view of morality and righteousness, 44% poll takers said that they would not be willing to bring to light a corrupt authority even with incriminating evidence at their disposal as they do not wish to jeopardize their own safety or that of their near and dear ones. Another 36% even felt that exposing corruption would be a futile exercise. This fear is understandable given that in the past many whistleblowers who exposed corruption have paid for their honesty with life or injury.
Therefore, an important inference we can make from this poll result is that there is an urgent need to provide legal protection to people who have knowledge of corrupt activities and are willing to make that knowledge public. Fight against corruption is a key promise of all the major political parties this election season. The union and some state governments have already made a law for the creation of an ombudsman. But no amount of law making will inspire confidence among people unless the law ensures protection for those who stand up for probity, and certain and effective punishment to those guilty of corruption.
In fact, the top five most ‘clean’ countries as per Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index have very strong legal protection for whistle blowers. These laws protect the identities of whistleblowers and even provide them with police protection if necessary. That seems to be an important distinguishing factor between the less corrupt and more corrupt countries.
So, if our political leaders really want to weed out the evil called corruption from our country, they cannot do it without empowering the people with guaranteed protection against harm from exposed corrupt officials.
The poll referred to in the first paragraph is the Saturday Poll posted on our social media on 8th February,2014.