Setting a precedent of sorts, a 35-year-old woman from a remote corner of Odisha’s Kendrapara district with an extremely humble background has turned a whistle-blower.
Her crusade against corruption, which has got accolades from various quarters, has put five bribe-taking government employees behind bars.
The latest ‘catch’ of the crusader was a revenue inspector from Garadpur block of the district. She also played an active role in five more cases, assisting the complainants in nabbing the culprits.
Minati Panda says that Saransh, the yesteryears Anupam Kher movie had inspired her to take up cudgels against bribery. Kher’s character, in the twilight years of his life, was asked to cough up a bribe for taking delivery of the mortal remains of his only son at the airport by a custom official. Kher’s character, seething in anger, had vociferously protested in a climactic scene of the movie, Panda recalled.
“The movie that I had watched on television in 2004 stirred me to fight against the menace of corruption by greedy government officials. When the revenue inspector asked me to pay a Rs 1,000 bribe for issuing my father’s death certificate, the dramatic sequence of Saransh came back to haunt me. The vigilance personnel came to my rescue. A trap was laid. The accused was caught red-handed. Of the four employees arrested for bribery, the latest arrest has given me immense satisfaction,” she said.
“I receive reports of bribery by unscrupulous public servants. Many come forward to seek my assistance. As I have become a ‘marked’ woman, now I prefer to stay in the background to help the complainants in their bid to unmask the corrupt,” she said.
“She has become the toast of the vigilance wing of the state police here. She is a courageous lady. After she came forward, five bribe-takers have been caught red-handed in separate trap cases in Kendrapara district. Besides, she played an active role in other trap cases. In the true sense, Minati is a whistle-blower,” said Rajob Lochan Panda, Sub Divisional Police Officer.
“I have taken a pledge to fight against corruption and bribe-takers. So far I have succeeded in managing to trap a few government employees with vigilance sleuths coming to my aid. My endeavour would continue regardless of hurdles and hindrances that come my way,” said Panda, a native of Kalabuda village under Patkura police station jurisdiction.
Panda’s crusade against dishonest practices in government offices dates back to 27 April 2010 when she helped vigilance sleuths by trapping an Integrated Child Development Scheme (IDCS) clerk of Garadpur block. She has never looked back.
In the same year on 8 August, the child development project officer (CDPO) of the block was arrested by vigilance sleuths while receiving a bribe from her. The headmistress of Andalo primary school was her third ‘catch’ on 28 August 2012 when she was caught redhanded with the bribe demanded from Minati. Two more bribe-takers were later snared by her.
“I have a self-help group with co-members enrolled from my village. They are engaged in a self-employment programme. It augments their family’s income. I am trying to motivate village women not to give bribes in government offices. I have also succeeded in this endeavour to a great extent,” she observed.
“As luck would have it, I have not encountered harassment like often happens to other whistle-blowers across the country. At least in my area, I draw respect in government offices. My work is disposed of expeditiously. I think this is my greatest reward for fighting against corruption,” says Minati.