The role of a whistleblower in exposing the Ranbaxy fraud in the US has once again underlined the need for a strong whistleblower’s law in India. Dinesh Thakur, the whistleblower of Indian origin, would not have succeeded in India as people like him could only at best escalate their grievances up to the top brass of the firm. India should follow the US pattern. The Whistleblowers’ Protection Bill that the government has prepared should be strengthened to include citizens to expose wrongdoings in the government as well as the corporate sector. It should also fix accountability of the public authorities and must stipulate a clear time frame, no more than 45 days, within which discreet inquiry by the authority must be completed to prevent inordinate delays.
The whistleblower who in 2003 was a director in Ranbaxy claimed that senior company executives in India had ordered destruction of evidence when they were alerted to data fudging, misbranding and adulteration in drugs. After reporting the fraud to the management, Thakur quit Ranbaxy in 2005 but continued to help the US FDA for the next two years to expose the fraud and file a lawsuit to hold Ranbaxy accountable. Not only has Thakur netted a whopping US $49 million of the US $500 million that Ranbaxy has agreed to pay as part of the fraud settlement, but his regulatory oversight has ensured drug quality and safety which will benefit millions of patients. His example will hopefully act as a deterrent to other drug companies that are indifferent to standards.
It is now for our lawmakers to ensure that the whistleblowers’ bill is suitably changed through lessons from this case. Merely passing a law to protect the whistleblower without adequate attention to finer points cannot be the solution. There must be provisions for acting even upon anonymous complaints if they are accompanied by adequate supporting documents revealing a prima facie case. For too long has the Indian consumer been taken for a ride. It is time consumer rights are recognised and protected and quality standards enforced strongly.