Vyapam scam: The accused and the dead have a story to tell
Probably the biggest scam that taints the present governance in the country, Vyapam scam growsn murkier and mysterious by the day.
While news reports suggest that there have been 42 deaths till date, the one link that joins all of them is mystery. The fact that anybody related to the corrupt recruitment drive is being 'eliminated' is what tempts one to dig deeper.
What is Vyapam scam?
A massive admission and recruitment scam, involving politicians, recruiters and government officials, the Vyapam scam has also looped in some of the top businessmen who have offered or received huge bribes for top posts in government offices.
Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) with the Hindi acronym VYAPAM is a government body responsible for conducting entrance tests in the state to top educational institutes and government offices.
Unfortunately, this opportunity was alleged to have given scope to undeserving candidates to get top jobs at the cost of hefty bribes.
Irregularities since 2009
The first signs of irregularities were cited in 2004 when complaints started emerging in the PMT in 2009 and the state government established a committee to investigate the matter. When the committee released its reports in 2011, over a 100 people were arrested.
The numbers multiplied manifold by 2015 when 2000 people were arrested in connection with the scam, including politicians like ex-education minister Laxmikant Sharma.
Threats and deaths
While there have been reports of top whistleblowers and investigators getting threatening calls, latest reports suggest that close to 40 people associated with the scam have died. Of those threatened include:
Anand Rai: An Indore-based doctor who filed the PIL, which led to the investigation. Interestingly when he sought police help after receiving threatening calls, he was asked to pay up Rs 50,000 per month.
Ashish Chaturvedi: Social activist from Gwalior, Chaturvedi escaped 9 life-threatening attacks and an abduction bid. He later filed complaint against 8 people- one of them being Gulab Singh Kirar's son Shakti Singh. Kirar, incidentally is a relative of the chief minister. Chaturvedi had petitioned CBI to investigate the admission of 5,000 doctors in MBBS and PG courses. Police apathy is evident here also.
[Read: The entire list of the dead]
Prashant Pandey: A whistleblower and an IT consultant who allegedly used public record to blackmail the prime accused. After being arrested in 2014, he said that investigators were trying to shield the Chief Minister by tampering evidence and that he was being harassed for trying to expose the scam.
He had a story that implied that even the chief minister was involved in the scam. He also alleged that the name of Shivraj Singh Chouhan and other senior BJP leaders were removed from an excel sheet recovered from the hard-disk of the scam accused Nitin Malhotra.
When the SIT investigated both the sheets, Pandey was found to be at fault. But Pandey continued to stick to his version, stating that it was testified by the Truth Labs, a private forensic lab. Pandey also said that he had sent the documents to top BJP leaders and the PMO, but had to resort to a different course when they did not respond.
Deaths tell a story
An Special Task Force report said that 23 of the 42 deaths (till date) were mysterious. In fact, most of these deaths were reported to have taken place before the STF took over the investigations in 2013. Of the dead were government officials, students and even politicians who were associated with the scam. It is however interesting how the deaths occurred.
Vijay Singh Patel, a pharmacist arrested for his alleged role in three cases related to the scam, was found dead in a lodge run by a BJP MLA. A few students have committed suicide, one was found under the bridge in Morena. Dr. D.K. Sakalley, the dean of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Medical College, Jabalpur, is said to have immolated himself in a garden behind his house.