The Killing Fields of Vyapam

By Prabhakar Timble
08 July 2015 09:40 IST

A well-oiled organized bribery network with an estimated  turnover of over Rs. 2000 crore involving the officers of the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPED) known as the ‘Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal’ or Vyapam operating since 2007 surfaced only in 2013, resulting in commencement of detailed investigations. The inquiry into the manipulation of eligibility tests for medical entrance and fixing of recruitment tests for government jobs by Vyapam officials in connivance with politicians, bureaucrats, teachers, doctors and brokers led to the arrest of over 2000 people with the net enveloping the Raj Bhavan and its incumbent Governor Ram Naresh Yadav. Vyapam scam shadow and substance looms large on Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the hat-trick Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh since 2005 and the charioteer of BJP’s record third straight win in the state.

Scary modus operandi

Though there could be diminutive scandals which fail to sprout in the public domain in many of such public boards conducting entrance examinations for professional courses and recruitments in government, the Vyapam is frightening. Impersonation in examinations by replacing the candidate’s photograph on the admit card by that of a brilliant student was done in collusion with the officials. Another tool was to ask selected candidates to submit the OMR sheets blank. There were also instances where the favored candidates were allowed to copy freely.  The scale and volume of selection or recruitment is indeed very large.

No scam in post-independent India has been accompanied with unnatural deaths of accused persons or witnesses or investigators. It is a gargantuan scam in terms of beneficiaries who are supposed to be important figures from all walks of life. It is becoming more infamous being a killing scam involving around 44 mysterious deaths including the son of governor accused in contractual teachers’ appointment. The death of a former dean Dr. Sakalle is labeled as self-immolation. The successor dean Dr. Sharma was found dead in a New Delhi hotel. Both were investigating the credentials of students suspected of using unfair means for clearing PMT and Pre-PG examinations.  It is given to understand that Dr. Sharma had handed over a 200-page file with incriminating documents on Vyapam scam to police officers and was aware of the plot to eliminate his predecessor. Most of the Vyapam associated have died in road accidents, railway tracks or committed suicide. The recent death of TV journalist Akshay Singh was immediately after the journalist interviewed the family of a scam accused who had died under puzzling circumstances three years back. The whistleblower has claimed threat to life and the Special Task Force formed to investigate perceives high security risk despite the talk of MP high court monitored probe.

The nerve-racking reaction of the BJP heavyweights in the state including the ministers in the state cabinet makes the scam chilling.  The state home minister Babulal Gaur attributed the deaths to natural causes adding “whoever is born has to die one day”. The calm and criminal indifference is chilling. The height of insensitivity can be captured from the remarks of BJP National General Secretary, Kailash Vijaywargiya over the death of journalist covering the scam---"Patrakar vatrakar chhodo, aaj hum se bada patrakar hai kya (Forget the journalist. Is there any bigger journalist than me today)". Admitted, all deaths may not flow from the dirty stream of Vyapam but the correlation and circumstantial association of most deaths with the scam is strong.

Confidence crisis

The people involved in Vyapam scam are cutting across professions, business and political affiliations. It is opined that the Special Task Force unearthing the network reports to the Chief Minister. It seems the High Court has taken control of the SIT. Vyapam is becoming sinister and murkier and with the present climate of insecurity and confidence crisis, investigations are less likely to zero down on the kingpins. Delays in investigation and the delays in the judiciary may invite more unnatural deaths. Certainly, this is not the price to be paid knowing that the truth would not come out.

With the lights and camera on Vyapam, the sordid saga of Sushma-Vasundhara-LaMo has taken a back seat providing temporary relief to the BJP. In fact, Narendra Modi led BJP has exhibited to the entire nation that it can be shameless to any extent and once in power, accountability and propriety is not printed on their menu-card. 

The reluctance of the state and central government to go in for a Supreme Court directed CBI investigation is beyond comprehension. That the High Court and Supreme Court did not grant this relief to a petitioner in a PIL does not mean that the judiciary is against an investigation under CBI. Probably, the High Court refrained as the MP state government had commenced inquiry. The argument that handing over the matter to CBI would be expressing lack of confidence in the High Court is childish.

If the current Chief Minister steps aside, it would definitely bolster the confidence of the STF, the police and the witnesses as the hands of the CM seem to be soiled. It is alleged that the three sons of the Governor were too deep into the scam. It is propriety and probity that the veteran Congress leader Ram Naresh Yadav should vacate the Raj Bhavan. Getting to the roots and truth may not be possible only through an investigation by the CBI if the top politicians, constitutional authorities and bureaucrats carrying some taint continue to stay in the power zone of their chairs.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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