In the 1999 film The Insider, Jeffrey Wigand (played by Russell Crowe) fears for his life for possessing information about the highly addictive cigarettes manufactured by the company he worked for. He receives death threats, sinister phone calls and his personal life is turned upside down. The film is based on a true story.
In many ways, India Inc, too, has similar stories. Thus, the Companies Act 2013 mandated the need for setting up whistle-blowing mechanism to report corporate malpractice, fraud and non-compliance. But, according to a recent Deloitte India survey, the channels are still in their nascent stages. About 41% of the companies said that they implemented a mechanism after the legislation was passed, while 12.5% said that they were yet to make any progress.
Moreover, 47% of respondents indicated investing less that Rs.500,000 annually on their whistle-blowing programme. Meanwhile, 45% of employees were partially or completely unaware of any such policy in their organisation and 48% said that they had not received any formal training related to the policy.
The survey recommends several steps to build robust whistleblower mechanisms in Indian corporate houses. These include — a committee of ombudspersons, access to multiple channels, a dedicated budget, an agile complaint review network, mandatory annual training to staff, and involving third party vendors to maintain confidentiality. But till things fall into place, the whistleblowers might have to keep their mouths zipped or go into hiding like Wigand after an expose.