Professionalism/Manjunath Shanmughan and the Indian Oil Corporation

Manjunath Shanmughan, known to his friends as Machan[1], was an employee of the Indian Oil Corporation. It was Machan's responsibility to ensure that the oil sold in Indian petrol stations was unadulterated. In October 2005, Machan closed two petrol pumps in Lakhimpur Kheri for three months because they were selling tainted oil. However, just one month later, the pump reopened. After learning this, Machan conducted a surprise raid and was killed. Pawan Kumar Mittal, the owner of the pump, and seven others were tried for Machan's death and Pawan was sentenced to death. The case is currently in appeal[2].

Defiance through IntegrityEdit

A true professional can show defiance in order to preserve his or her integrity. This behavior is exemplified through social psychologist Stanley Milgram's obedience experiments. The individuals who were defiant to authority understood that it was their choice whether or not to flip the switch despite what the experimenter stated. Pawan Kumar, the owner of the pump, was in a position of authority and chose to open the pump two months early. None of Pawan's seven employees showed defiance, by either preventing him from opening the pump or reaching out to the Indian Oil Corporation. Instead, they claimed in testimony that they were just doing what they were told. These employees lack integrity through defiance.

What makes some individuals capable of defiance and others not? In a society that values individualism, people are encouraged to define integrity as an individual. However, in other cultures, a person's integrity is shaped heavily by community and authority. Machan, intent on maintaining his integrity and the integrity of the oil, paid for this with his life.

Dangers of Integrity in IndiaEdit

As we can see from this example, having integrity in a culture that does not value individualism can be dangerous. However, people still continue to expose corruption in India.

In the late 1990s, Navleen Kumar, a human rights activist, tried to help the Adivasis to restore their land through legal interventions at different courts. Their land was located in the suburbs of Mumbai. During the rapid expansion of this financial district, developers wanted to seize that land. It is alleged that the land developers relentlessly intimidated her, but she fought back. Navleen was killed in June 2002 while she was walking her 2 dogs. She was stabbed 19 times and subsequently died at the scene. [3]

Satyendra Dubey was an project director at the National Highway Authority of India. He fought corruption in the Golden Quadrilateral highway construction project. Satyendra was murdered in November 2003 on his way back home from a wedding. [4]

Satish Shetty was a social activist known for exposing land scams. Satish was killed by unknown attackers in January 2010. [5]

Amit Jethwa was an Indian social worker. He filed several court cases regarding illegal mining and uncovered a lion poaching group. Amit was shot by two men on a motorbike in July 2010 and died shortly after. [6]

These examples show that the life expectancy of a whistle-blower in India is very short.

Fighting CorruptionEdit

M. N. Vijayakumar became a whistleblower when he started pointing out the corruption in the state of Karnataka. Instead of being rewarded, he was transferred seven times in ten months. He was harassed and threatened.

One night a group of men came to his house just before midnight and told him that his younger son, a college student, had been in a car accident. However, his son was actually sleeping in his bed, only steps from his father. The family concluded that this was a ploy to get Vijayakumar out of his home. The family moved to another neighborhood soon after this incident. [7]

His wife, J.N. Jayashree didn't want her husband to end up like Machan and the others, so she devised a plan to keep her husband alive - she started blogging about it. [8] Her reasoning was that “it is harder to kill a man who has a bit of Internet renown”. In an interview, she said “we are creating a fortress around him – a fortress of people” [7] . By making her husband’s case public, she made everyone responsible from making sure that this man with integrity stayed alive.

Integrity Shapes InspirationEdit

Machan's integrity has served as an inspiration, not only the young people around him but to people at a national level.

First, Machan's integrity inspires young people. Before his death, Machan's friends claimed:

“He was a courageous leader and...led...sales tasks in the most honest manner. It appears it was this honesty and integrity that drove him to being brutally murdered on Saturday night November 19th 2005. Sad but this is what our system has cultivated. One honest officer trying to do his job in the right way becomes the victim of the very system he is trying to protect.” [9]

His peers' words like "courageous leader," "honest manner," and "victim" show how his fellow students admired him and regretted how he was treated because of his actions. After Machan's death, students at the Indian Institutes of Technology set up the Manjunath Shanmugam Trust. [10] This trust was registered a year after the Shanmugan case on Machan's birthday. The objective of this trust was to fight the legal case on Machan's behalf and even more importantly to improve oversight and decrease corruption in Indian society. The Shanmugam Trust runs India's first and only National Right To Information Act Helpline, which is a multi language helpline run seven days per week by professionally trained call center agents. Even though the individuals who were running this trust were students, they created an effective system through the inspiration they derived from their role model Machan.

Machan's integrity has also impacted and inspired people of India at a national level. A few Indian NGOS are working to ensure that Machan is awarded one of the prestigious Padma Shri Awards, which is awarded to Indian citizens in recognition of outstanding contribution in myriads of activities. In Hindi, Padma means Lotus and Shri is a term of respect. Lotus flowers symbolize clarity of the heart and mind [11]. Thus, this award is especially notable for respected people of integrity, who have "clarity of heart and mind." The NGOs who want Machan recognized through this award have petitioned the President and even started a campaign online.

There is now a Manjunath Shanmugan Integrity Award, which has a One Lakh Cash Award in Indian rupees, which equates to approximately $2,000 USD. [12] This award was established to honor people who report and work to decrease corruption. One of the first recipients of the award was Akhil Gogoi who relentlessly fought against corruption and increased transparency in government functions through his anti-graft movements at the state level in India. Another recipient of this award was R.P. Singh, the Vice Chancellor of Lucknow University for his courage in rectifying systemic corruption by challenging the way that collegiate elections were held at Lucknow University. [13] Even under the disapproving eye of politicians and death threats from students, Singh "refused to buckle under pressure." [13]

Integrity also inspires people in the United States. For example, the Medal of Honor is America's highest military honor, awarded to military personnel in the Army, Navy, and Air Force for "personal acts of valor above and beyond the call of duty." The President of the United States awards the Medal of Honor in the name of Congress in the White House. This medal is awarded for acts of integrity has prestige and status associated with it, as seen by its "protection under U.S. law against unauthorized adornment, sale, or manufacture." [14]


As seen through the case of Manjunath Shanmughan and the Indian Oil Corporation, integrity not only shapes, but is shaped by, many social factors such as defiance, safety, and inspiration. Integrity encourages defiance, it causes people to shape their behavior based on their desire to keep them and their close ones safe, and lastly, integrity inspires others in society to hold themselves to a higher standard as well.