No big deal for IIM grads to get good jobs/salaries, how many do their bit for society?

Only the likes of Anjali Mullati can make a statement like the one above. A graduate from the Indian Institute of Management Lucknow (IIM L, batch of 1993), Anjali has done more than just graduating from a prestigious college; she has tried to change the society and has succeeded too. She, along with her husband H Jaishankar, a graduate from the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM B, batch of 1991) have fought for justice in the *Shanmugam Manjunath case and have provided ‘back-office’ help in the **Manoj Gupta case. The duo have even set up a trust to help or advise those rendered helpless by such man-made atrocities.

This is besides the fact that Anjali and Jaishankar also run a successful financial company.

In an interview to PaGaLGuY, Anjali speaks about her ambition to do more than just ‘business’ and her drive to educate the society to give back more to those who are not so privileged.

When you are not doing your bit for a social cause, what do you do?

My husband and I run a company called, FLIP, which is an e-learning and certification company. The company has trained over 10,000 working professionals across countries. We offer career-oriented training and our initial set of courses were launched in December 2009.

What got you interested in the Manjunath Shanmugam case?

Manjunath is an IIM L alumni. All alumni of the school are part of an e-group. When the incident happened, there was a buzz on the e-group and his batch mates posted on the case and there was a general discussion about what could have been done. My husband and I decided that we should do something to help. But what really got us on the case was a television clipping of Manju’s mother just after the incident who said she was crying tears of blood and that there was little she could do since she did not have the clout to do so. That triggered it and we decided that we had to do something to get her justice.

So what did you really do for the Manjunath case?

We worked hard to ensure that justice was delivered quicker than it would have otherwise. We got legal help, we also spoke to the media and other professional communities for help. The lawyer we got, Indra Bhushan Singh braved death threats to bring the case to trial. We connected the family’s grief and resolve to the lawyer. With such a huge support, the lawyer ensured the first conviction in the case took place within nine months. An appeal by the accused was dismissed in the Allahabad High Court. The case went on. We attended every hearing. Finally on Friday, March the 23rd, 2007, all eight accused in the case, which included the de-facto owner of Mittal Petrol Pump, Pawan Kumar Mittal (aka Monu) and 7 other friends and employees, were found guilty under Indian Penal Code Section 302 (murder), plus other charges. This verdict came after just nine months of trial, which started on June 5, 2006. We fought locally powerful people and went into the case without any monetary incentives or political support.

What about the Manoj Gupta case?

With Manoj Gupta, we actually mobilized legal and other such help. In April, this year the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court sentenced Bahujan Samaj Party MLA Shekhar Tiwari to life imprisonment. The court convicted all the 11 accused in the case but gave some relief to Vibha Tiwari, wife of the MLA, sentencing her to imprisonment for two and a half years only.

You have set up a trust for such activities, what does the trust do?

We provide aid to any person or persons or institutions that are fighting a legal battle in the interest of upholding the values of truth, honesty or justice in the Indian corporate, government or public matters. Such legal cases may be civil or criminal. Aid may be in the form of legal fees, media, travel and related costs. We want to benchmark India to global standards of governance, and fund or otherwise aid actions, which address damages, caused to India by corrupt practices. The means to achieve the above would be a combination of legal, involving media and public action to do all such acts and deeds as are necessary and expediate to achieve the aims and objectives listed above. We also run an Right to Information (RTI) helpline which was launched with a vision to improve governance in Indian public. The vision of the helpline is to disseminate knowledge about the RTI Act nationally and empower the common man to seek accountability in public administration. There is also an award instituted which is for any person or persons or institutions who is/are working to uphold the values of truth and honesty in the Indian corporate, government or public matters, even in the face of danger to their lives.

Did your learning at IIM L help you in any way? Did you have to do an MBA to do all this in life?

No, the lessons at IIM L did not help us with the cases but the entire networking did. Being a part of the elite IIM group, you automatically get into a huge networking base which is the big thing. It is this networking that got us into the case in the first place. Manju’s batch mates got us into the case and it happened because we were in the same e-group. You don’t learn about FIRs (First Information Report) and other realities in an IIM. The fact is that, being educated in an IIM is definitely a privilege but what you do with it is what is important. How you use your contacts and networking is what is the real teaching.

What is that you would like to tell people at large? Can people help in any way?

Yes, there are lots of things that people can do. For one, they can just go to a local court or some other government office where peoples’ applications are processed and help people file applications. There are touts who take money from the poorest of people even for filing an application, this is because government agencies provide little help. People can also file RTIs to find out information about wrongdoings. Instead of sitting and blaming the system, doing something to improve it is better. Basically, people need to do their bit to help change the system at least by a little bit.

But Indians are cynical, with all the scams happening and the lack of faith in our political system, how can one change that?

Yes, we have to stop being cynical. Being cynical has never helped anyone. If all of us think that it is not worth it, nothing will happen. People have to come out and believe that they can change things. Stop thinking that iss desh ka kuch nahin hoga. Things will happen if people want them to happen.

Did any IIM student or faculty do anything to help you in either of the cases?

Quite a few students came for the hearings and that was a big help. In fact it was Manju’s batch mates who got us on to the case in the first place because of our e-group. As I said, the contacts that you make post an IIM degree give you the privilege to do so much more in life than just having a job. It is no big deal for IIM graduates to get good jobs and salaries, but if they come forward and do something for the society, it will truly mean something.

Did you not get threatened at any point, did you get scared?

We got threats. Especially as the opposition was the Mayawati government, there were tense moments. There was an MLA who said that he would rather support the accused than us as he would get votes and notes and we could not give him either. Our lawyers also got threatened but as I said it is all a part of the process of trying to do something more than just living a routine life doing a routine job. The place Kheri where Manju was killed resembles scenes from the Hindi movie Omkara. There are little shops along the road that sell guns.

Any good memories?

Besides the fact that we got justice in both the cases, we have also encountered unusual people who came forward to help. This old widow from an ashram in Uttar Pradesh sent us a cheque which unfortunately bounced. We sent the cheque back with a letter telling the lady that her blessings were enough and the money was not needed. She sent us another cheque with double the amount. We have realized over the last few years that people who do not have much give a lot.

*Shanmugam Manjunath (IIM Lucknow, batch of 2003) was a marketing manager at the Indian Oil Corporation and was murdered for sealing a corrupt petrol station in Uttar Pradesh. He was killed by a petrol pump mafia in 2005

**PWD engineer Manoj Kumar Gupta, an IT-BHU graduate was beaten to death by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MLA Shekhar Tiwari and his men who dragged him out of his house in the early hours of December 24, 2008. Manoj, apparently had refused to give a donation for Mayawati’s birthday celebrations.