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.

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

  1. I would hope that the whistle blowers are doing it for the right reasons. Like bringing an injustice to light. Trying to make things right.

    1. Thanks for reading Frank. I hope the same.


    1. Thanks for reading Amit. I share the pain.

  3. You’ve expressed a pretty important point. If no one listens, and nothing is done, then nothing changes – What is the point?

    I’m not sure exactly, but in my own mind, right is right, and wrong is wrong and I KNOW the difference. Perhaps these acts are served for ones own conscience?

    I could not say, as I have yet to be in that position @ such a high level of influence.

    Even if I were, would I be brave enough to speak out, knowing I could be imprisoned, killed or have my family suffer? I do not know. I think I might be scared.

    Great post, thanks for sharing,

    Very thought provoking…


    1. Thanks Lou.
      The questions that you have asked in th end trouble me too. I think these people have an altogether different mindset.

      1. I’m not altogether sure that their mindset is wrong, perhaps they value the idea & Philisophy of doing what is right, no matter what is the cost?

        In Christianity, particularly referencing Baptist – because I have given my life to Jesus, the notion of doing what is right, no matter the cost or level of persecution is something often referenced.

        To do what is right is valued and means that no matter how short your life here on earth, you will be rewarded in heaven.

        I often sin, So I won’t pronounce to always do right. Perhaps these people you have mention that have suffered great persecution are at points where their thoughts are consistent with that mindset?

        I think about some of the whistle blowing and consider a conflict when it comes to what is right and what is wrong. To do nothing causes pain and further wrong doing. To do something could also cause pain and place lives at risk.

        Surely grateful it is not me making the choices, but there is no way to achieve a positive outcome for everyone involved….

        Unless you have faith and are acting on that?

        I just could not say!

        Thanks again…


      2. The mindset i was referring to is “to be driven by the guiding principle and not be deterred by the consequence at all”. And certainly this is not a wrong mindset.
        People like me despite appreciating the guiding principle fail to ignore the consequences.
        You are so right in pointing out that no consequence can be positive for everyone. This adds to the dilemma of “to act or not”.
        In Hinduism, “Geeta”, which is a holy scripture, preaches ” Make honest effort without expecting any reward” ..it also preaches “Death is a mere transition where soul leaves the body only to give life to a new body, so one should not fear death ..nether ones own nor of the dear ones” It is believed that Geeta was the source of inspiration for Gandhi.
        But for lesser mortals like me, practicing Geeta is challenging.
        You have mentioned about ” giving life to Jesus’. If possible please explain it.

  4. Whatever these peoples have done, they did for their ownself not for anybody else and loved theirselves more than anything, and above right and wrong they braved their weaknesses to embrace absolute freedom. So now the question is, whether whistleblowing is freedom or foolhardy?

  5. This was a wonderful thought provoking blog . Sometimes I read in print the thought lying subconsciously in our hearts. The roots of whistle blowing lies in our roots, the way we have been brought up,the way we have been taught or groomed to reciprocate, the way ethics have been made to seep in us, the way we judge right and wrong. This is entirely different to the virtue of having courage. So though ,being ethical we may lack courage because fear has roots in us.What about …if we sow the seeds of courageousness at early stages of life…and let our children speak up their minds,whithout prethinking the judgement…..teaching them to accept gray….seeping satisfaction into them …so that they learn to accept all the situations in life and still be happy.Then humbly , non-violently, these trees will take roots in the ground to withstand the winds coming from the other directions. These minds need to just introduce the right thought…and let it take its own course…and i hope that the winds will change its course one day.

    1. Thank you so much for reading and giving your valuable inputs. I completely agree with you. Even two generations earlier there used to be joint families and the older people in these families particularly grand parents, who had seen and understood the world closely and had time to contemplate, used to groom their grandchildren and tried to instill values and courage in them. But of late that school is gone. Parents – too busy earning money and too impatient to groom children – are happy giving their kids smart phones and internet for their “self development”. I wish whatever you have said comes true some day. 🙂

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