Lucknow, Nov. 22: His father would plead with him to quit his job at Indian Oil Corporation, but 27-year-old B.S. Manjunathan just wouldn’t listen.
“It’s foolish to compromise or get a transfer anywhere. IOC wants corruption to stop and quality oil to be distributed. Wherever I go, I have to ensure this,” the slain executive would tell his father M. Shakumugan whenever they got chatting at their Kolar home, 90 km from Bangalore.
At one such session three months ago, Manjunathan told him petrol pump owners and retail distributors in Lakhimpur-Kheri ' where he was posted ' nursed mafia links to make it easier for them to smuggle oil into Nepal.
“I often pleaded with him that he should give up this job in that part of north India where the border with Nepal and the forest terrain made mafia operation conducive,” Shakumugan told The Telegraph over phone today.
“But he would not listen,” he sobbed, “and he would say he loved Lucknow which gave him his management degree, and that he was ready to give his life for Indian Oil.”
An engineer and IIM Lucknow graduate, Manjunathan was shot dead on Saturday in Lakhimpur-Kheri, 170 km from Lucknow, during a surprise check on a petrol outlet which had resumed selling adulterated oil despite being sealed by him.
“I often visited him in Lakhimpur-Kheri,” continued Shakumugan, “he would return from a meeting with distributors and pump owners and rattle off how they defraud consumers.”
But there was no crying off for the anti-corruption crusader, no matter if the outcome was death. “I just bade him my final farewell,” wept Shakumugan, a manager with Bharat Earth Movers Limited.
Manjunathan was the oldest of Shakumugan’s three children and had landed the IOC job through a campus interview last year. He had rented a room at Lakhimpur-Kheri and used to stay alone.
Manjunathan’s brother Raghavendran is an engineer and sister Sujata is studying electronics engineering. His mother has been fainting off and on since she heard of his murder.
Police said today the car in which the assailants ' allegedly relatives of the pump owner whose outlet was sealed ' were carrying the body belonged to Manjunathan.
“He was himself driving before being killed. The killers shot him dead at Mittal petrol service station, shoved the body into his own car and were heading towards a bridge, about 20 km inside a jungle near Sitapur, when police intercepted the vehicle,” Lakhimpur-Kheri SSP Zakie Ahmed said.
Five persons have been arrested, including main accused Manu Mittal, the pump owner’s son, the police said. One is still absconding.
Manjunathan is believed to have reached the Mittal service station area at 10.30 am and kept an eye on the pump while chatting up truck owners and ordinary consumers who had several complaints.
When he returned to the pump around 6.30 in the evening for a surprise check, the assailants got him from behind. “While doing his duty, the young officer might have completely overlooked the risk to his life,” an officer of Sitapur police station said.
Lakhimpur-Kheri petrol dealers said a section among them smuggled oil into Nepal and sold it at higher prices. “As a large quantity of oil is smuggled out, a section of unscrupulous pump owners mix kerosene with their stock so that there is not much shortage here,” a trader said.
One of Manjunathan’s colleagues said the executive had had to pay for taking his anti-corruption drive too seriously. “One can easily see the challenge involved in the fight. We are under constant pressure to check corruption.
“While most seniors make a compromise and keep quiet, Manjunathan took the government directive too seriously. And he had to pay with his life.”
Change rules, say officers
Our Special Correspondent
| B.S. Manjunathan
New Delhi, Nov. 22: The Oil Sector Officers’ Association threatened to go on an indefinite nation-wide strike from Thursday if the new oil marketing discipline guidelines are not withdrawn and those behind IOC executive B.S. Manjunathan’s murder arrested by then.
OSOA president Ashok Singh said the government has been asked to “scrap immediately” the 2005 guidelines which place the entire responsibility of controlling adulteration on sales officers of oil companies.
Late at night, the association called off the proposed strike after petroleum secretary S.C. Tripathi assured its representatives the guidelines would be reviewed.
Manjunathan was murdered on Saturday during a surprise check on an Uttar Pradesh petrol outlet that had started selling adulterated oil on the sly even after it had been sealed.
Singh had earlier said officers of oil companies in Uttar Pradesh would observe a bandh tomorrow to protest the murder. This would be followed by a nation-wide strike the next day if the demands are not met.
The marketing directors of Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum submitted a memorandum to the petroleum ministry today seeking changes in the guidelines.
Singh said it was not possible for an oil company sales officer to carry out the responsibility the new guidelines had thrust on him as he had to supervise over 50 retail outlets stretching over a 300-sq-km area.
He said oil companies would have to be backed by state governments if adulteration had to be effectively checked. The weights and measures department of the state government and the police would have to back the efforts, he added.
The security of oil company officials was an issue the government would have to address, he said.
The parliamentary consultative committee attached to the petroleum ministry has condemned the murder.