Whistle Blowing: Bravery or Folly! – Why do people choose to be whistle blowers or take corruption head on ?

Edward Snowden has become synonymous with “whistle blowing”. He brought to light the mind boggling level of snooping by the NSA. Today one thing is certain about his future – uncertainty.


Bradley Manning passed on classified information related to US military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.

bradley manning

Back in India too there have been acts of whistle blowing in fact acts of taking corruption head on.

Satyendra Dubey was an IIT alumnus who was working for National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) where he came across blatant flouting of norms. He decided not to turn a blind eye and bring this to the cognizance of the higher authorities. He also wrote a letter to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention. He paid the price for his crusade with his life on Nov 27, 2003.

satyendra dubey

Shanmugam Manjunath was an IIM Lucknow alumnus who was working as Marketing Manager for Indian Oil Corporation where he found out about unfair practices including adulteration at a petrol station in Lakhimpur Kheri. He decided to seal the petrol station. He too paid the price with his life on Nov 19, 2005.

manjunath shanmugam

These instances are examples of great individual courage and selflessness driven by extremely high passion for setting things right. Unfortunately, the desired objective was almost completely missed.

I would like to acknowledge that there might be some acts of whistle blowing where the ensuing publicity is a strong motivator. But I believe that the above instances do not fall in this category.

But then why do people choose to be whistle blowers or take corruption head on? 

Do people become whistle blowers after they grossly underestimated the gravity of threat involved in whistle blowing? Or do they choose whistle blowing in a spirit of colliding head on with that threat? Or do they overestimate their own power and potential in the system?

These are the questions that puzzle the onlookers especially the ones who have a suppressed desire to raise voice against corruption.

I guess a whistle blower acts on a premise of hope that the good work started by him by bringing the wrong doings to light will be taken up by the people who wish to correct the system but are not brave enough to take the first step. He trusts the system at least for anonymity or confidentiality. He acts on a hope that his effort and sacrifice will not go in vain.

If my above guess is correct then the act of whistle blowing is a courageous act of folly.

The folly is fighting for the people who don’t deserve such a fight. The folly is expecting support from the people who love status quo so much that no act of sacrifice can diminish that love. The folly is pinning hope to wake up from slumber the people who are dead from within.

Of course I am talking about people like me. I can write and express my desire to fight the system but when a Satyendra Dubey calls me for support I may chicken out. My strongest defence would be the safety of my family because my world begins and ends with my family.

Fear is contagious. It needs a trigger and then it transforms into panic. But even courage is contagious. It just needs a spark to galvanise a helpless crowd into an army.

May be a whistle blower overestimates the power of his spark.

The world strongly gripped in the shadow of fear shrugs and moves on. The echo of the whistle dies down.

Thanks for your time. Your comments are extremely valuable.