How to blow a whistle and stay alive


MN and Jayashree Vijayakumar, 55 and 48, BENGALURU

Photo: Satish Badiger

HAVE FACED: 40 death threats and endless transfers as the couple exposed corruption in the highest ranks of the Karnataka government

Poorva Rajaram

IN 2006, MN Vijayakumar, an IAS officer, was the secretary of the Department of Public Enterprises. Around midnight, his doorbell rang and two men tried to lure him out, claiming his elder son, a college student, had a serious accident. Vijayakumar knew his son was sleeping inside. Soon after, he and his family fled the house they had lived in for 14 years.

Despite the police protection, there were two attempts on Vijayakumar’s life

Vijayakumar’s vigilance — as special secretary in the Energy Reforms Department — had led him to a 344 crore power subsidy scam. In 2005, the son of a Central Food Technology Research Institute accountant filed a 30- page report on the misuse of funds to the Karnataka chief secretary. Between September 2006 and June 2007, Vijayakumar was transferred seven times. Twenty days after his posting as regional commissioner, Bengaluru, he introduced a programme where the public could see the RTI information files on the Web. Two days prior to its launch, he was transferred and the project canned. After the first midnight knock, he has received 40 death threats. Following his transfer to Belgaum, he refused to go without police protection. Despite the protection, there were two attempts on Vijayakumar’s life.

Even though whistleblowing is not a profession with middle-class respectability, his wife Jayashree, 48, could be considered a professional. “I started a website ( in 2006. I didn’t want to fight for justice after losing him,” she says. The website has been filing RTIs and gathering information on corruption. In 1991, while sitting in Dharwad University, Vijayakumar read an American magazine article on whistleblowers. “After that, I knew what I should be doing.” In 2005, he wrote to the Karnataka chief secretary, saying the state would soon become one of the most corrupt. Recent exposés prove how prescient he was. Sadly, the ideals of public office he swore by had to crumble in Karnataka before he found listeners.


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