There are people who live for their jobs. And a few, very few who die for them. In the latter category you generally think: soldier. Dying to protect the Motherland. Yes, we have plenty of those, making the 'ultimate sacrifice' to protect our borders.
But Manjunathan was no soldier, he was a sales officer with Indian Oil Corporation. He did not join this company pre-warned about any mortal danger. And yet, for merely doing his job, he paid with his life.
The 27 year old IIM Lucknow graduate was murdered in UP on Nov 20. According to the first report on the matter, which appeared in the Lucknow edition of the Indian Express, Nathan had sealed Mittal Automobile Petrol Pump at Gola, about 50 km away from Lakhimpur district for adulteration of petrol.
He had also recommended cancellation of the petrol pump’s licence, said an IOC officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Gaurav Sabnis was Manju's junior at IIM L and this is what he writes in his blog tribute: "Manju was murdered for doing his job honestly. Considering the circumstances, this case is no different from that of Satyendra Dubey".
Except this news has not yet stirred the nation's conscience. It has appeared on page 12 of today's TOI, Mumbai edition. And was reported on the CNBC ticker last night. Ironically, the same ticker reported that Captain Satish Sharma has been let off by the CBI in the petrol pump allotment scam.
Were the cases againat Sharma dropped for lack of evidence? Um, not exactly. PTI reports: After hearing two days of arguments, Special Judge Pratibha Rani accepted the closure report filed by the agency which said it was willing to wind up the cases against Sharma as the Home Ministry refused sanction for his prosecution.
The order came even as a PIL was pending in the Supreme Court against the Centre's refusal to grant sanction of prosecution on which the apex court had issued notices to Sharma, CBI and the Union Government.
The colour of money is black. So is petrol...Yahaan koi dudh ka dhula hua nahin hai. More recently, the NDA government was rocked by a similar petrol pump allotment scam.
Politicians come and go, but the Oil PSUs - the so called 'navratnas' - remain under the changul of the netas. I mean yes, they do have professional management but these professional managers - like IAS officers - are expected to function within certain boundaries.
Cross the line and well, you can see what happened to Manjunathan.
Of course, you might argue, Manju was not knocked off by the government. But those who perpetrated the crime did so to protect their 'basic right' to adulterate petrol. Their line of thought: Bhai sab karte hain... Itne saalon se kisi ne roka nahi - yeh launda kahaan se aa gaya?
The conversation from Gaurav's last meeting with Manju, a year and a half ago: We asked him how it felt to work in a PSU like IOCL. ... He shrugged. He said work was OK and all, but he felt that the business would improve a lot more if there was transparency. Apparently, part of his job was to inspect samples from petrol pumps, and report back to the company.
Well, adulteration was rampant and here is why: Manju said the reason why this adulteration happened so brazenly was that the dealers knew that no matter what happens, their licenses couldn't be cancelled. If everyone does it, how many pumps will the company shut down?
He said he usually tried to cajole, convince and scold the dealers to not indulge in such dishonesty. He said some fell in line, but most of them usually got back to the same old adulteration business. In fact Manju said, some of the petrol pump owners are downright scary.
But even he could not have imagined such an outcome. I mean, people like you and me don't consider violence as a means of settling a dispute. In UP and Bihar, it must be common enough for someone to believe he could kill an IOC officer and get away with it.
It was, in fact, pure luck that the vehicle in which the murderers were transporting the body was intercepted by the police. They had broken the signal and were speeding. Else who knows in which river or ravine the body would have ended up? And no one would be the wiser.
The cynical have observed that 'discretion is the better part of valour' and that Manju had no business trying to 'change the world' in the first place. Again, I would like to point out that Manjunathan did not decide to be an activist or crusader. He was merely doing his job.
As friend and classmate Sharad notes : "He received some threats from the Petrol pump owner and bribe offers too, but he refused to change his assessment".
Ho sakta hai soon enough Manju himself would have thrown up his hands and say "I quit!". I'm sure there would be no dearth of jobs - Reliance, for example would have quickly snapped him up.
The fact is, Manjunathan stuck on at IOC for 2.5 years after graduating from IIML. Despite his integrity being constantly tested. Despite being posted in UP. And that says something about the "IIM stereotype" that exists in most people's heads.
As another of his friends wrote : Manju was known to the entire batch as an awesome singer (especially for a song he used to sing with Badri aka Bhoja called Rama ho... ), with a natural feel for music and could light up your day by his presence.
That light has been snuffed. That voice has been silenced. But what he stood for - and stood upto - that, I hope will live on.
Widespread media coverage - yes of course! Let's work for that, lobby for it. But beyond the moment, I would like to see a lasting impact. For example, a case which is actually taught at b schools.
Because we all speak of 'ethics' in business. But it's a rare and extraordinary person who makes the 'ultimate sacrifice'. A sacrifice that - like that of our soldiers on a border we can't get a fix on after 58 years - simply might go in vain.