Photograph of Anil Chawla


Author - Anil Chawla

Satyendra Dubey was murdered. He paid a price for being honest. Shocking and sad! But we need to look beyond, to the malaise that afflicts Indian society and polity.

"After this, the governor's soldiers took Jesus into the palace, and gathered the whole of their company about him. First they stripped him, and arrayed him in a scarlet cloak; then they put on his head a crown which they had woven out of thorns, and a rod in his right hand, and mocked him by kneeling down before him, and saying, Hail, king of the Jews. And they spat upon him, and took the rod from him and beat him over the head with it. At last they had done with mockery, stripping him of the scarlet cloak, they put his own garments on him, and led him away to be crucified." (The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to Matthew 27:27-31. The Gospels. Translated by Ronald Knox. London: Burns & Oates Ltd, 1967, p. 70-71)
Head of Jesus with crown of thorns

The mockery and insult that Jesus experienced at the hands of governor's soldiers is something that every honest truth-seeking person, who opposes established interests, faces at some time or the other. Satyendra Dubey faced a similar company working at National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). He was just 31 years of age when the assassin's bullet got him. He had been betrayed in the same way as Jesus had been betrayed by Judas for thirty pieces of silver. He was betrayed by people whom the country has trusted with all that the country has. Instead of living up to the trust, they have sold their soul for some pieces of silver. He could have chosen to make a compromise and could have sold his soul for his weight in gold. But he chose to speak.

He was reprimanded by Central Vigilance Officer of NHAI for speaking out. Surely, Dubey should have known that the job of vigilance officers in public sector understandings is to keep vigil that no one blows the whistle. He naively wanted to make a positive contribution to an organization where everyone else's commitment was to make a positive contribution to one's personal assets. He believed that golden quadrilateral project was intended to herald a golden future for the country. Little did he realize that it was just a goose that was to lay golden eggs for men-in-power for many years to come.

He felt that he could do something for his country. He had chosen to give up the temptation of a fancy title and a two-garage house in California. He wanted to work for the poor people of India. Why did he want to do so? Was it a sense of duty? Or was it out of love for the country and its people? Duty without love is hollow and cannot sustain a person for long. Loveless duty cannot give a man the strength to face death when it stares him in the face.

Death had stared Jesus in the face even before Judas had betrayed him. Similarly, Dubey knew that he was endangering his life by fighting the well-entrenched powers. Yet, he ignored paying his insurance premium. He lived life dangerously. Some would say - he lived foolishly.

Would you say the same about Yogita? She worked as administrative officer in Bhopal regional office of a large private sector Internet service provider. She picked up the courage to complain to authorities at head office about inflated bills regularly submitted by regional manager. Her reward - she was sacked unceremoniously without notice. Her fault - she took more than a year to pick up courage. The regional manager was sacked too, but that is no consolation for her as she carries the cross of a ruined career.

Jesus dying on cross

Dying on the cross is difficult, but it is more difficult to carry a cross through one's life. The governor's soldiers did a favour to Jesus by crucifying him. Imagine the pain and torture, if Jesus was made to carry the crown of thorns for a lifetime and people had mocked him and spat on him day-after-day for years to come. Living through pain is indeed more difficult and needs more strength than dying with pain.

For any honest person, living in a country where corruption has gone deep into the psyche is like carrying a cross through life. The honest person wears a crown of thorns and is mocked and spat upon every day of his / her life. Corruption in India is not confined to the Government or public sector. It is present in good measure in large reputed private organizations. The absence of cast-iron systems and procedures, combined with freedom and autonomy as well as the new culture of hire-and-fire has on one hand made senior executives accountable to no one and on the other hand has made junior executives extremely insecure. All this has got compounded with corruption and lack of morals, making the situation really terrible.

The situation is worse in new-age-companies. For example, in new-age-companies, it is not unusual for bosses to demand sexual favours from subordinates under threat of dismissal. Recently, a business newspaper carried the story that Coke marketing head demanded sexual favours from Sushmita Sen (reputed actress and former Miss World) under threat of non-renewal of contract. Coke has reportedly paid a sum of Rs fifteen million to Sushmita Sen for settling the case. All women are not so lucky. Most suffer silently. Infosys has paid huge sums to settle such a case in USA. It need not worry about such cases in India, not because its operations in India are cleaner, but because Indian judicial system gives no hope of justice to victims of sexual harassment.

There is something dramatic about the death of a 31-year old IIT engineer who dared to write a letter to the Prime Minister. Nothing similar can be said about the fate of a young woman who has to suffer the agony of a 50-year old boss trying to feel her buttocks every day. The latter is not dramatic, but the pain and agony is probably more intense and prolonged. Of course, it may be argued that the young woman is not doing anything for the society, while the young engineer died trying to do something for social good. This is a significant difference. Yet, it cannot be denied that both are suffering as a result of the deep malaise that has afflicted Indian society.

The malaise is corruption. The country is suffering from a corruption of the mind, an anomie (lack of the usual social and ethical standards). Financial corruption or taking bribes is one of the external manifestations of a mind that has no morals. Sexual harassment of one's subordinate is another such external manifestation. There is a need to cure the affliction of the country's mind.

A country's mind is a function of its social, economic, legal and political structures and systems. While IIT graduates across the world mourn the loss of a brother and sign online petition demanding CBI enquiry, let them not forget that the country is suffering from malignant cancer. Dubey's death was just a small event. Punishing the hand that fired the gun or giving a million rupees to the bereaved family, though desirable, is no cure for the cancer. A friend once said that band-aid is useful when one has a small ulcer; but if ulcers keep erupting all over the body due to some form of virulent cancer, band-aid does no good.

India's intellectuals need to grow beyond the band-aid syndrome and look at structural reforms. There has to be serious introspection. We cannot ignore a fact like - after hundreds of years of foreign rule incidence of rape in the country in 1950 was just 0.5 per 100,000 population; in just five decades this tripled to 1.5 per 100,000 population (incidentally, for USA, the rate is 32 per 100,000). There is something drastically wrong with the model of development and governance adopted by the post-independence India.

India's intellectual class must analyze the model and structures with ruthless precision and sharpness. But before that they must look at their own role and responsibilities. IIT's and IIM's represent an important section of the Indian intellectual class. For a bit too long, these institutions have believed that they can survive as islands of excellence even as ocean of mediocrity and corruption continues to swell around them. It is high time the institutions and their graduates realized that they are a part of this country. Whether they like it or not, they cannot avoid the fate that befalls the country. A professor at IIT Bombay (was it Prof. Bhagwat?) used to say, irrespective of whether you are in first class or third class, if you are in a train going to hell, you are bound to go to hell.

Satyendra Dubey was on such a train. He tried to tell the driver of the train that the train needed to change course. His voice was lost. He is no longer in the train to hell. We are still here. Shall we do something to correct the course of the train or shall we continue to fight with the coach attendant about temperature settings of air-conditioning?

It is not easy to correct the course of a train that has lost way. If you do try, they will spit upon you, mock at you and if you are lucky get Simon to carry your cross and crucify you. Probably, you will not be as lucky as Jesus Christ was. There will be no Simon to carry your cross. You will have to carry you own cross and you will not even be crucified. You will wear a crown of thorns forever and no one will ever thank you for it.

While we mourn the loss of Satyendra Dubey, shall we prepare for the difficult way of carrying a cross through life or shall we at least agree to support one who is prepared to wear a crown of thorns?

Anil Chawla
13 December 2003

Please write to me your comments about the above article.

ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer (and now a lawyer too) by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.

All Rights Free