The Vyapam scam has shook the nation off late, with a series of mysterious deaths being linked to the scam. What is the Vyapam scam, you ask? The following points explain what exactly the Vyapam scam is, how widespread it is and how it involves government officers and politicians of every level.
The Vyapam scam is a colossal recruitment and admission scam in the state of Madhya Pradesh.
It derives its name from the Hindi acronym of the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB), the body conducting various entrance tests in the state.
The scam revolves around the manipulation in the selection process for government jobs, and collusion in entrance tests for admissions to educational institutes in the state by the MPPEB; with the current accusations mainly revolving around scheming in recruitment for teaching positions.
Undeserving candidates were allowed high marks in the exams in exchange of bribes. The scam involved politicians, senior officials, businessmen, and a swarm of middlemen.
The tricks used in the scam were impersonation, engine and bogie system, and blank OMR sheets.
A multitude of mysterious deaths have been pegged with this case; officials showcasing the number as 25, High Court monitored probe stating it to be 35, and activists claiming the number to be over 40.
The scam reportedly dates back to 2004, when complaints of irregularities in the entrance tests surfaced.
Major complaints were received in 2009 for the pre-medical test (PMT) and Dr. Anand Rai, an Indore based activist, filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) for the same.
CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan set up a committee to investigate the irregularities in PMT 2009 which submitted its report in 2011.
MPPEB monitored 145 suspects during PMT in July 2011; out of which most didn’t turn up and 8 were caught impersonating others.
15 previous year’s exam toppers were also found appearing for the exam.
In the month of November, a government probe committee headed by the State Joint Director of Medical Education submitted a report which stated that the number of students who had passed PMT using impersonation exceeded 100.
In December, the Madhya Pradesh government announced that all students who had secured admission using corrupt methods would be asked to quit their courses.
In 2013, the state government started investigating the scam and the case was transferred to a Special Task Force (STF).
Indore crime branch, on July 6 and 7, arrested 20 candidates from different city hotels; 17 of them belonged to Uttar Pradesh while the others were from Madhya Pradesh.
Dr. Jagdish Sagar was arrested from a hotel in Mumbai by the Indore crime branch on July 12 and a list of 317 student names was confiscated from him.
Pankaj Trivedi, MPPEB’s exam controller, wrote a letter to Indore IG Vipin Maheshwari seeking information about ongoing investigations and the list of students obtained from Dr. Sagar.
The IG, not aware of Trivedi’s involvement then, forwarded the letter to SP Anil Kushwaha for necessary action who replied to Trivedi with all the information.
Trivedi made several more attempts at availing information about the exams before being arrested by STF on 28th September on the basis of Dr. Sagar’s interrogation which revealed his role in the scam.
Senior bureaucrats, at a meeting held in Bhopal in July 2013, raised serious questions over the fact that no tab was kept on Dr. Sagar since his arrest in 2003 for a similar case.
In November 2013, the STF of Madhya Pradesh made a shocking revelation that the Vyapam scam was also involved with the rigging of five more recruitment tests – Pre PG, Food Inspector Selection Test, Milk Federation Test, Subedar Sub Inspector and Platoon Commander Selection test, and Police Constable Recruitment Test.
In December, STF investigating the PMT scam put out a supplementary charge sheet against 34 accused.
The High Court asked police why there was no arrest of any of the high and mighty absconding accused persons yet.
On April 29, 2014, STF of MP police stated that it had arrested over 100 medical students for their involvement in the scam and that the number could go up as arrests were being made everyday.
By June 2015, more than 2000 people had been arrested in connection with the scam.
Some of the key arrests include that of Laxmikant Sharma (ex-Education Minister of Madhya Pradesh), Dr. Vinod Bhandari (main accused), O.P. Shukla (the Officer on Special Duty who allegedly gained 8.5 million from the scam), Pankaj Trivedi (Examination Controller Vyapam), R.K. Shivhare (Suspended IPS Officer), and Dr. Jagdish Sagar (Key Middleman).
The first ‘mysterious death’ was reported on 21st Nov 2009, when Vikas Singh Thakur, a middleman in the PMT scam, died of illness and adverse drug reaction.
Deaths of various middlemen from 2010 to 2015 continued to be reported with causes of road mishaps, alleged suicides, and illnesses.
Some of the high profile deaths include that of Shailesh Yadav (Madhya Pradesh’s Governor’s son), D.K. Sakalley (the dean of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Medical College), Akshay Singh (a journalist with Aaj Tak covering the scam), and Arun Sharma (the dean of N.S. Medical College).
On July 6, 2015, Anamika Kushwaha, a trainee sub inspector who was recruited through Vyapam Scam was found dead near Police Training Academy but the CM denied any relation of the scam with the death.
Prashant Pandey, one of the whistle blowers, said, “There must be a CBI probe. It is not coincidence that all the accused are dying of one ailment or another. There is something more to it.”
2 senior officers of the STF investigating the scam claimed to have received death threats (allegedly) from influential people in the racket and whistleblower Ashish Chaturvedi claimed that there was a grave threat to his life and accused the CM of being directly involved in the scam.
Congress leaders openly accused MP CM Shivraj Chouhan and his wife on being involved in the scam to which CM Chouhan claimed in a letter to Congress President, Sonia Gandhi, that the development regarding the Vyapam scam proved his innocence as he was the one who ordered a probe into it.
The Congress and AAP demanded an SC monitored probe in the case on July 6.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh stated that the government cannot direct a High Court or a Supreme Court to order a probe into the scam.
The Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition seeking removal of Naresh Yadav, MP’s Governor, regarding his alleged involvement in the scam.
On July 7, CM Chouhan told NDTV that he had “yielded to the wishes of the public” and ordered CBI to examine the deaths.