Sucheta Dalal :Death of a Whistleblower: The Satyendra Dubey Story
Sucheta Dalal

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Death of a Whistleblower: The Satyendra Dubey Story  

December 3, 2003

Whistleblower said don’t name me. Govt did. He was shot dead

31-year-old IIT grad working on PM’s showpiece highway complained of corruption, contractor mafia. This story by the Indian Express on Sunday morning –November 30, 2003 shook most people to the core. Over the next few days outraged letters zapped across email networks and yahoo groups, but the government remains unmoved. There has been no reaction yet from the Prime Minister or his office, although the PM’s OSD is an ex-IITian

We track the debate and various outraged voices for you. There is also an online petition attached by Sunil Ganu that you can sign.

The Indian Express Report

Whistleblower said don’t name me. Govt did. He was shot dead

NEW DELHI, NOVEMBER 29: The next time a promising young engineer sees corruption and mismanagement in a Government project he’s working on, chances are he will think twice, thrice, several times, before complaining to the political and bureaucratic establishment.

For, 31-year-old Satyendra Kumar Dubey did that, he sent his letter to the Prime Minister’s Office—and now he’s dead, killed by ‘‘unidentified assailants’’ in Gaya, Bihar last week.

Dubey, a 1994 civil engineering graduate from IIT Kanpur, was Deputy General Manager in the Centre’s National Highway Authority of India working on the 60-km Aurangabad-Barachatti segment of the Golden Quadrilateral in Bihar with headquarters in Koderma, Jharkhand.

On November 11, 2002, the Prime Minister’s Office received his letter addressed to the Prime Minister himself. In the letter, a copy of which is with The Sunday Express, Dubey called the PM’s highway showpiece ‘‘a dream project of unparalleled importance to the nation.’’

And then highlighted several instances of what he called ‘‘loot of public money’’ and ‘‘poor implementation.’’

Dubey requested his name be kept secret but at the same time, he let his identity known. He had reason to.

‘‘Since such letters from a common man,’’ Dubey wrote, ‘‘are not usually treated with due seriousness, I wish to clarify... that this letter is being written after careful thought by a very concerned citizen who is also very closely linked with the project. I request you to kindly go through my brief particulars (attached to a separate sheet to ensure secrecy) before proceeding further.’’

Just the opposite happened.

Dubey’s letter is riddled with signatures and scribbles of officials indicating it was a classic case of a file going into babudom’s endless orbit.

• In 10 days, the PMO fowarded Dubey’s complaint to his parent Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. (MoRTH). Dubey’s request for anonymity was apparently ignored by the PMO.

•Along with the attachment, his letter was sent to the MoRTH. Eight Ministry officials went through the letter.

• And on December 4, 2002, Dubey’s letter was sent to the National Highway Authority of India with a copy to NHAI’s Chief Vigilance Officer. And a covering letter from an official: ‘‘I am directed to forward herewith an unsigned letter on the above subject (National Highways Development Project complaint regarding loot of public money) for such action as deemed fit.’’

• On November 27, Dubey was shot dead in Gaya when he was returning from Varanasi. According to the FIR filed at the Rampur police station in Gaya by Dubey’s brother, the people whose corruption he exposed were behind the murder. The FIR does not name anyone. No arrests have been made so far.

Gaya Superintendent of Police Sanjay Singh, a friend of Dubey’s from his IIT Kanpur days, said he will ‘‘leave no stone unturned to track down the killers.’’

Dubey’s key complaints in the letter he wrote:

• Detail Project Reports (DPR) by design consultants are in ‘‘very poor shape and cannot be implemented in the field without major modifications...The result is that the DPRs on the basis of which tenders have been called are like garbage.’’

• Process of procurement ‘‘completely manipulated and hijacked’’ by the big contractors. Many contractors are ‘‘submitting forged documents to justify their technical and financial capabilities.’’

• The ‘‘big contractors have been able to get all sorts of help from the officials in NHAI and even the note sheets carrying approval of Chairman have been leaked outside.’’

• NHAI officials have shown great hurry in giving ‘‘mobilisation advance to selected contractors... No surprise as the commission to officials for award of work are linked to the contractors getting their first mobilisation advance.’’

• The entire mobilisation advance of 10% of contract value (which goes up to Rs 40 crore in certain cases) has been paid to the contractors ‘‘within a few weeks of award of work’’ without follow-up to ensure they are ‘‘actually mobilised at site with the same pace.’’

• ‘‘Diversion or idling of funds... in case of equipment advances to the contractors, another 10 per cent of the contract value.’’

• NHAI is going for international competitive bidding to procure the most competent civil contractor for execution of its projects. When it comes to the actual execution, it is found that most of the works (sometimes even upto 100 per cent) are being sublet or sub-contracted to small petty contractors who are not at all capable to execute such projects and ensure the quality of construction.’’

All that the Govt says now: ‘We can’t recall this’


When contacted by The Sunday Express these were the responses:
Bihar DGP D P Ojha: ‘‘The criminalisation of contractors is an unfortunate but true fact...Most of the contracts go to the mafia. I am shocked to hear how an honest man died. I will take personal interest and ensure that we book the culprits.’’

Dubey’s Boss Union Minister B C Khanduri: ‘‘I’m not aware of the letter.’’ When told that Dubey’s letter shows his initials, he said: ‘‘I can’t recall it. The NHAI chairman has been asked to compile all letters.’’ Asked why Dubey’s request for secrecy was ignored, Khanduri said: ‘‘It’s neither possible nor appropriate for me to comment. I have talked to his brother and the Bihar Chief Minister.’’

• PMO spokesman: ‘‘Numerous letters come in everyday and it is very difficult to trace each and every letter. If you have a copy and send it to me, I can then find out.’’


And here is the response from outraged Indians from around the world


Ram Narayanan says:

“There is only one language -- actually, two dialects of one language -- politicians in India understand. Votes, and money”.

 IIT-ians are in a position to mobilise both.

 A way to go about this is to quickly put together a crisis group representing all IITs - and alumni associations of IIT-ians here; to then have an official statement put out that until justice is done, and seen to be done, IITians will no longer contribute to government projects and causes both in India and worldwide; that further, IIT will mobilise its considerable alumni base, and its resources, to mobilise voters against a government that, a, callously released the name of the petititioner and b, has done nothing about a murder it indirectly caused.


Sanjay Dasgupta says:

“We must mourn the death of this IIT brethren and all honest Indians who have met similar fate because they dreamed of a BETTER INDIA.

A well publicized meeting must be organized simultaneously at all IITs.

Publicity mode:  Newspapers,

Poster campaign: Picture poster with the Express

Report: In all the hostels of IITs and IIMs, B-schools

Net campaign: Matter must be put up on all IIT Alumni Association websites.

A resolution must be passed at each of these meetings.

A personal meeting must be sought with the President of India and the PM. A representative group of IITians must hand over the resolution to them.

A memorial must be built up at IIT Kanpur – in memory of Satyendra Dubey and all Indians who have met similar fate in their lifetime.

Let all generations of IITians narrate this story for generations to come”. 

One statement -- signed by all IITs across the country, and IIT alumni organizations in the US -- will do far more than any online petition will; the government does not care for whatever you may put online, but talk money, influence, votes, and they come begging.”


Sunil Ganu says: Please wake up: angry IIT chorus

“This is outrageous. We should do something about this case and force the authorities pursue this to a meaningful conclusion culminating into at least some justice done to the family of a honest and highly intellectual person from a premier institute. I am also attaching a petitiononline link at the end of this mail, if you want to sign it.”



And finally, Shailesh Gandhi, President of the IIT Alumni Association Mumbai has written this letter to the Prime Minister


November 30, 2003



Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Prime Minister of India

Mr. Prime Minister,


Today’s Indian Express carries a story about the murder of Satyendra Kumar Dubey in Gaya, Bihar because he dared to send a note to your office to complain about the “ loot of public money”. As the new story describes, Satyendra was a Deputy General manager in the National Highway Authority of India. When he discovered rampant corruption and poor implementation he sent a note to you since he

was also a concerned honest citizen, who was pained at the rape of India.

He gave his name and address to substantiate his credentials and with the hope that your office would treat the charges with the seriousness they deserved.

It is obvious that his identity should have bee kept a secret to ensure his safety.

Dubey also made a request for this.

Your office received this letter on 11 November 2002, and apparently issued a contract (supari?), to silence him. In ten days his letter along with his identity were sent out by the PMO. It is clear from the report that it was circulated for enough people to see. To believe that your office did this without any motive is impossible. It is a clear case of a contract being issued to ensure that such impertinence by an honest Indian should not be tolerated. This information was shared with a fairly large number of people, any one of whom may have taken up the ‘cause’ of silencing him.

He was silenced on November 27 2003. This was not done by cutting his tongue, - this would have been considered barbaric, - but by murdering him with a bullet.

This is a clear signal to everyone that honesty in India has only one result, - failure. You may also lose your life in the bargain.

A lot of honest people pay with their lives for their convictions, but in this case the Prime Minister’s Office is guilty of complicity. The Prime Minister of India should be able guarantee security and safety to all Citizens. The bright and honest youth in India go to shores abroad to live a decent life and your Government and the Nation fawn on them.

But Satyendra a 31-year old IITian has been killed because he trusted you, and thought you would take steps to stop the rape of India. How naïve and wrong he was?

     I grieve for Satyendra because he was a young honest Citizen of India. I grieve for him as fellow IITian. I weep to see the Prime Minister’s Office involved in issuing a contract to silence honest Citizens. If you have any sense of right and decency, immediately suspend all those who either mindlessly or with sinister purpose are culpable in the murder of Satyendra Dubey. Use your powers to have them and their conspiring contractors arrested and punished.

    I beg of you, please act decisively and immediately if your grand projects are not mere excuses to distribute favours and money.

Satyendra Dubey is a martyr in the cause of an honest India, and his martyrdom should not be allowed to be in vain.

Distressed Indian

Shailesh gandhi


Mera Bharat Mahaan…

                       Nahi Hai,

Per Yeh Dosh Mera Hai.


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-- Sucheta Dalal