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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 December, 2003, 10:11 GMT
Vajpayee demands murder inquiry
By Soutik Biswas
BBC News Online correspondent in Delhi

Satyendra Dubey
Murdered engineer Satyendra Dubey (photo: Indian Express)
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has asked the nation's top detective agency to probe the murder of an engineer working on a road project.

The engineer was killed last month in Bihar, eastern India, nearly a year after complaining to Mr Vajpayee about corruption in a massive road project.

"Those responsible for his death, wherever they may be, will not be spared," said Mr Vajpayee.

There has been widespread shock in India over the incident.

Dream project

Satyendra Dubey, a 31-year-old civil engineering graduate from the country's prestigious Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), was gunned down by unknown assailants on 27 November.

He was working on a section of India's biggest ever road project - a $12bn scheme to build nearly 14,000 kilometres of roads across India.

Repair work on the highway in preparation for the monsoon season
About 250,000 people are working on the road project

Mr Dubey had written to Mr Vajpayee and the network authorities about the public money "looted" during the project's execution.

"Like all right thinking Indians I am shocked and saddened by the murder of Satyendra Dubey, an upright and dedicated officer," said Mr Vajpayee in a statement.

"The project is a great dream not merely for me but for the entire nation."

"Thanks to the efforts to talented engineers like Dubey, it has made remarkable progress already and my government is committed to ensuring that those working on it complete it without any fear," said Mr Vajpayee.

Call for new laws

Mr Dubey's death has sparked off unprecedented condemnation and sympathy in a country where there are frequent allegations of public money being siphoned off from big ticket government projects.

The Indian Express newspaper, which broke the story on the incident, reported that that Mr Dubey was killed after his name was leaked from the complaint he had sent to the prime minister's office and the road network authority.

The incident has also led political parties to raise fresh demands for bringing in laws to protect whistle-blowers.

The laws have been pending approval by the federal government for the last two years.

Shock and sympathy

The Indian Express newspaper has received over 25,000 letters on the incident, websites condemning the death have sprung up, and offers to financially help Mr Dubey's family have poured in.

Narayana NR Murthy, the chairman of the Board of Infosys Technologies, one of India's largest companies - and an IIT alumnus himself - has also condemned the murder.

"I urge the prime minister to suspend the contract with the contractor involved, hold an investigation on top priority, and swiftly punish the guilty with the toughest possible judgement," Mr Murthy said in a statement.

"Let this be the last such tragedy in India," he added.

Mr Vajpayee said the "outpouring of sympathy for Dubey from across the world shows that Indians, wherever they are have a commitment to honesty and transparency and a significant stake in the country's future".

He said he had recently visited the IIT centre where Mr Dubey had been educated and was inspired by the "talent, sense of hope and commitment among the students and faculty".

"We can't let criminals or vested interests weaken that spirit," Mr Vajpayee said.

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