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A woman's fight against corruption

Whistle-blowing in India can be an expensive choice, sometimes resulting in individuals paying with their lives. In the last four years the names Satyendra Dubey and Manjunath Shanmugam became synonymous with found dead - for exposing corruption.

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"Corruption is wrong, however small the amount, but the most recent instances he [her husband] reported an amount of Rs 3.45 billion in just one case," saysJayashree Kumar.
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Whistle-blowing in India can be an expensive choice, sometimes resulting in individuals paying with their lives. In the last four years the names Satyendra Dubey and Manjunath Shanmugam became synonymous with found dead - for exposing corruption.

It was, therefore, no surprise when Jayashree Kumar grew concerned that her husband, M.N. Vijayakumar, might be added to the list of muted whistle-blowers.

The surprise, however, was her turning to technology and blogs, to create what she calls "a fortress of people from around the world to protect him from the potential threats".

An employee of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in the southern state of Karnataka, Vijayakumar is on a moral crusade to prevent corruption and has reported any instances or incidents within his purview to his seniors.

In his 26 years as a bureaucrat he has always received adequate support from the system, until recently. As officials are regularly transferred, his bosses too have changed.

"For the past two years and with the last four Chief Secretaries [Vijayakumar's bosses], things have become terrible. Instead of preventing corruption the authorities are promoting it," she told me.

Their lives have been further complicated with death threats, false alarms and the most frustrating - seven transfers since last September - including one to a defunct company.

Now, through the internet, their story has reached out to the world and even featured in publications such as the International Herald Tribune and The New York Times, which Jayashree believes makes it tough for her husband's enemies to harm him.

Once considered to be the custodian of the collective conscience, the new middle class, with lots of new money, wants more. As the conscience is slowly erased, the rules of corruption are rewritten - to suit each one's definition.

In the case of Vijayakumar, his wife confidently tells me he has never been offered a bribe in his career. And it helps hugely that he has unwavering support from his wife and sons, one of whom is studying for a PhD in the United States.

"Corruption is wrong, however small the amount, but the most recent instances he reported an amount of Rs 3.45 billion in just one case."

Website

Jayashree's website, http://fightcorruption.wikidot.com, is not just a daily account of their trials, but a storehouse about the Right To Information Act, which she believes is the Indian citizen's hope for justice and weeding out corruption.

She remains optimistic in a country where sting operations by TV channels, which have exposed corruption at the highest levels, have resulted in little or no change.

Reaching out to the educated, English-speaking, techno-savvy public is, according to her, the only hope, as mobilising the poor will not have any impact.

"They are fighting for survival. We can't expect them to fight this battle. This is a fight the educated masses must undertake on everybody's behalf."

Jayashree says there was never any doubt about retracting statements and becoming a by-stander. The blog, she says, was set up after she debated and then dismissed the idea of writing a book. "It also ensures if something happens to him I can go on with his work."

Fear, she says, for her family, is not an option. Even with the threats of death looming large above them. "Once you're determined, nothing else matters. If you can live for a good cause, you can die for a good cause."

Vinita Bharadwaj is an independent writer basedin Dubai.

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