IIM-L graduate Manjunath Shanmugam murdered on duty

India has done it again.

About 11 months ago, Satyendra Dubey, a proud graduate of IIT Kanpur, was murdered in Bihar, India (see “Bihar Govt. wakes up to IIT-ians’ murder“, Rediff.com). At the time it was widely believed that he was murdered for attempting to nail down corrupt elements who were involved in the National Highway project. Satyendra was a Project manager with the National Highway Authorities. One of the accused has since then managed to escape justice (“Dubey murder accused escapes“). Rediff are tracking his case carefully here. I acknowledge the fact that it has not yet been established if Satyendra was simply the victim of a roadside robbery or that of a wider conspiracy to cover the trail of corruption in the project. That should not take away from the fact that Satyendra was working to clean up a system that was corrupt and inefficient. It should not lessen the fact that his loss was a big blow.

I respect and admire the way IIT alumni threw their weight behind getting the word of his murder out there. I thought that all the media coverage Satyendra’s murder got would dissuade anyone from murdering another hard-working, honest graduate.

I was wrong.

A sales member of the Indian Oil Corporation was murdered while he was on the job (“IOC official seals petrol pump, is killed“). I did not come across the news until today, a surprise to me. The authorities believe that his murder was also motivated by the fact that he was about to nail a corrupt petrol pump owner for adulteration of Diesel with Kerosene. Like contracts for public infrastructure construction, petrol pump (or gas station) allotments rest with the Government. In the past this has served to be a tremendous motive for corruption. Those involved have probably never stopped short of compromising their integrity over money.

Gaurav Sabnis describes his relationship with Manjunath on his blog (“Bye, Machan“). He also points out the dangerous nexus between the powerful government machine behind allocations and the criminal element. I am left questioning the rationale behind my desire to return home. The criminal psyche has rooted itself deeply into the Indian way of life. Only a sudden upheaval of biblical proportions can change that. People cheat their way through school, then college, and not surprisingly, even through life. Even after having settled abroad they won’t stop trying to cheat their way out. If watching people cheat the system and not calling it out taints my character, then I admit, I am tainted.

So how do the educated youth of India react? Reactions were strong and targeted at the corrupt system. However, someone calls Manjunath names for doing his job honestly (see “Extremely pissed off!!!“). While this was just one voice that was quoted, the atitude is actually prevalent in the (silent) majority of educated Indian youth. They prefer to play along and avoid confrontation. Do they hope that eventually the system will clear itself? Or do they believe that their co-operation will keep them safe. While the latter is more likely, it is just as misguided.

I am surprised India continues to grow and keep inflation within a rational margin. Those who are rich and corrupt and have attached themselves like leeches to the infrastructure of the nation will continue to thrive. I pray that the brains and hands behind both murders are brought to justice and that the punishment is severe.

An update: Manjunath’s friends have setup a site to ensure that his murderers are brought to justice. See “Remembering Manjunath“. They have requested that people sign an online petition “Demand for Full Inquiry and Justice in Murder of Manjunath Shanmugam for his Fight Against Corruption” addressed to the Prime Minister of India.