Sealing mouth in civilized way
S Madhusudhana Rao
Pay without work may be a dream job for many, but not for a French engineer. Charles Simon, after receiving $5,500 per month plus bonuses for 12 years without going to work for a single day, is mulling to sue his employer SNCF, the French national railway system, for ‘punishing’ him.
Simon gets paid for just sitting at home and doing nothing related to his profession. Officially, he has been an employee of the rail company; but barred from attending to his work in office. By European human rights standards, it can amount to mental torture and the perpetrator can be dragged to court.
But Simon’s claim is different: He wants to sue SNCF for spoiling his career. He was suspended in 2003 after he was alleged to have leaked a financial fraud to authorities. But he has never been reinstated or fired. Simply, he was asked to draw his salary and sit at home. While his monthly pay and annual bonus get credited to his bank account month after month and year after year without failure, Simon has got bored to the bone.
Finally, after receiving a total of $800,000 during his forced ‘retirement,’ Simon has decided to sue the rail company and let the world know his plight of sitting at home, cooling his heels for eternity. It is not clear why he has waited for so long to seek justice.
Nevertheless, Simon has told a local TV, “I am asking for recognition for the wrong this has caused me because if I hadn’t been sidelined, I could have had a fine career.” He also blamed his bosses for ruining his career and claimed that after he told local authorities about a $22 million fraud in a subsidiary of the rail company, his boss asked him to go home and wait until they could find him a different position. But the new post has never materialized nor his complaint letters to SNCF chief and Paris Workers’ Tribunal ever answered.
It is a civilized way of sealing mouth of a whistle-blower. But it is an exception to the rule of jailing, harassing and bumping off persons who can’t close their eyes to public frauds or pocket money in lieu of disclosures.
Contrast the story of Simon with the sagas of whistle-blowers in other countries. Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame is being hounded by the US (the Australian has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than three years); Edward Snowden, who leaked highly classified information from US National Security Agency about its massive global surveillance programs is hiding somewhere in Russia to avoid arrest; and Bradley Manning who leaked mountains of secret data to Assange was jailed.
Nearer home, in India, dozens of whistle-blowers have lost their lives and many in government service are being harassed for tipping off watchdogs and alerting investigating agencies. Indian Parliament passed a Whistle blowers Protection Act sometime back and some of its provisions were amended in May this year and passed by the Lok Sabha. Rajya Sabha is yet to clear the amended bill.
What Charles Simon of France, Julian Assange of Australia, Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning of US and Satyendra Dubey, Shanmugam Manjunath and many more in India prove is money, power and authority can’t bury their innate urge to expose frauds and confine them to the four walls of their homes.