There is something not quite right. Within a matter of days, two crucial people named in the Vyapam scam have died due to ‘natural’ causes. It would not have been alarming if it was just two deaths that may or may not have been linked. However, since these two people join a list of over 25 others accused in the case and have died under various circumstances, it is a reason enough to draw attention of the highest authorities.
Dr Narendra Singh Tomar, a 29-year-old veterinary doctor, had been arrested for his involvement in the scam and was lodged in Indore Jail. He died on 27 June this year after complaining of ‘chest pain’. Another accused, 40-year-old Dr. Rajendra Arya, who was out on bail, died of ‘liver infection’ at a hospital in Gwalior.
The several accused persons who have died have been stated to die due to ‘natural’ causes but the fact that they are all accused in the widening Vyapam scam, is giving the opposition parties enough reason to take on the Shivraj Singh Chouhan-led BJP government in Madhya Pradesh.
The CM has so far been praised for his developmental initiatives in the state, however, this scam has brought attention to the rot that has seeped into the administration.
Genesis of the Scam
Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal (Vyapam) also known as Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB), is an autonomous body under the state government of Madhya Pradesh and was initially set up in 1970 to conduct the Pre-Medical Tests for candidates wanting to join Medical courses in the state. By 1982, Pre-Engineering Test Board and the Pre-Medical Test Board were together brought under the purview of the Professional Examination Board (PEB).
It was in 2013, when one Dr Anand Rai, an Ophthalmologist from Indore, first blew the lid on the scam. Anand Rai had been in the news earlier too, when he exposed frauds conducted under the garb of clinical trials. This time, however, the exposé seemed far wider with a number of persons involved, which included government officials, bureaucrats, politicians, individuals, parents and students, all colluding to get candidates into various medical and engineering colleges. While the investigations were underway, several other recruitment scams involving various departments of the state government, have also come to light.
Ashish Chaturvedi, a Gwalior based social activist, has been instrumental in bringing out the alleged involvement of members from the Chief Minister’s family. He has petitioned the CBI to further investigate the entire admission list of candidates who got admission into medical colleges in all states from 2003 to 2013. He has already faced three attacks on his life and continues to seek state protection. As the broader investigation unfolds, more persons are likely to come under investigation.
In July 2014, Prashant Pandey, a computer forensic expert and accused, turned whistleblower and began to give details on the modus operandi of those involved.
As on date, over 3,000 persons have been allegedly involved, of which, around 1850 persons are lodged in jail and include government officials, politicians, bureaucrats and students.
How the scam unfolded?
Based on Dr Anand Rai’s initial expose, the Indore crime branch swung into action on 6 & 7 July 2013 and began raiding various hotels in MP. They arrested 20 persons who were to sit for the MP-PMT exam impersonating registered candidates. Based on initial information gathered from the arrested persons, on 12 July, the police raided a hotel in Mumbai, from where one Dr Jagdish Sagar was taken into custody. This was just short of the PMT counselling that was to take place in the state. His arrest and subsequent interrogation revealed the involvement of over 317 students and gave the first indication of the wide network of persons involved in the scam.
Meanwhile, as the news of the list of 317 students involved came to light, the Vyapam (MPPEB) Exam Controller, Pankaj Trivedi took unusual interest and wrote to the IG Police, Indore, requesting the names of the 317 candidates. The police responded by sending him the list. With the PMT Counselling due on July 21, Trivedi, on 20 July, wrote to the Principal Secretary – Directorate of Medical Education Government of MP, along with all the Deans of Medical Colleges in the state that the 317 ‘suspicious’ candidates be allowed to sit for the counselling, subject to an undertaking that they would be expelled, if found guilty of misconduct. Based on further revelations by Dr Jagdish Sagar, arrested earlier, Pankaj Trivedi was arrested for his involvement on 28 September 2013. The list of those involved was getting bigger.
The case was now handed over to the Special Task Force (STF) of Madhya Pradesh Police. Their investigations revealed that the MPPEB officials had also rigged five other recruitment tests that were held in 2012 for recruiting into various state government services. Over 153 FIRs were filed against various persons and included a local mining baron called Sudhir Sharma. Known to be close to the ruling party in the state, he had earlier been interrogated by the CBI for his involvement in the mining scam.
By December 2013, the STF had filed a supplementary chargesheet against 34 persons which included Pankaj Trivedi, Dr Jagdish Sagar, Dr Sanjeev Shilpkar and Sagar’s associate, Gangaram Pipliya.
As the investigations proceeded, more names were coming out. On 29 April 2014, 27 students of MGM College (Medical) were found to have used fraudulent means during the PMT in 2012 and were expelled. The STF had identified 282 students who were guilty of using unfair means during PMT 2012.
On 19 June, the STF arrested BJP leader and former state minister for Technical Education, Lakshmikant Sharma for his involvement in the Contractual Teachers Recruitment Exam, also conducted by Vyapam. His arrest shook the state, since this took the scam right to the top. He later resigned from the party.
By September 2014, another scam came to light, based on detailed interrogation of Dr Jagdish Sagar and one Mohit Chaudhary. The duo in collusion with state officials and people from Bihar and U.P, were involved in fraudulently getting candidates to clear the SBI Probationary Officer’s Exam from the state. Most of these candidates failed to get past the interview.
The list of those others arrested till date include Nitin Mahendra (Principal Systems Analyst) and Ajay Sen (Senior Systems Analyst) – both from Vyapam, CK Mishra – Officer at Vyapam, OP Shukla – OSD to Lakshmikant Sharma, Vandana Dwivedi, Narendra Dev Azad, RK Shivhare (IPS Officer), Dr Vinod Bhandari, Ravikant Dwivedi (Joint Commissioner – Revenue), Animesh Akash Singh, and Jitendra Malviya.
Political allegations and counter allegations
Former Chief Minister and Congress leader, Digvijay Singh has taken on the fight to bring the guilty to justice. He has accused the CM’s wife of being involved in the scam. Apparently, a document from the Nitin Mahendra’s computer had Shivraj Singh Chauhan’s name in it but was later removed.
In February this year, the STF had sought permission from the MP High Court to probe the State Governor, Ram Naresh Yadav and his son. An FIR had been registered against his son, Shailesh Yadav (50). In a serious turn of events, on 25 March this year, he was found dead in his father’s residence in Lucknow.
The serial deaths of all those allegedly involved in the scam has resulted in Digvijay Singh calling for a CBI probe. The Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan has refused to involve the CBI till date, calling Digvijay Singh’s campaign politically motivated.
Vyapam Scam remains a case in progress and each day unravels the rot that has set into our system. It is time that the nation acts together to clean up our institutions and restore integrity and probity, as the cornerstones of those in office. Will the nation stand up?
7 July 2015
Supreme Court to Hear Pleas on 9 July
The Supreme Court of India has agreed to hear the pleas of the Congress leader Digvijay Singh and other whistleblowers for a CBI probe into the Vyapam scam. A bench headed by Chief Justice H L Dattu has agreed to give a hearing and to post all the petitions related to the scam on 9 July. Many activists, lawyers and politicians from the opposition parties had approached SC for a CBI probe in the matter.
8 July 2015
Trainee Cop Anamika’s Family Says She Could Not Commit Suicide
Just after a day when the dead body of the trainee sub-inspector Anamika Sikarwar was found in a pond in Madhya Pradesh, her family claimed that she could not commit suicide. Her family said that she knew how to swim hence she could not die by drowning herself in a pond. On the other hand her husband has also claimed that they both share a cordial relation and his family has never demanded dowry from her family. The state government and the Madhya Pradesh police’s training academy have claimed that Anamika was under stress which made her took this extreme step.
9 July 2015
Doctor: Namrata Damor was Murdered
A new twist is being reported in the death of Namarat Damor, a 19-year old medical student who died three years ago and was related to the Vyapam scam. One of the doctors who conducted her autopsy, B B Purohit says that she was strangled and there were no chances of natural death. After her death in 2012, the police had declared that she had committed suicide. On the contrary senior police officer Manohar Varma has said that while investing the case they did not find anything which suggested that she was murdered.
10 July 2015
Supreme Court Orders CBI Probe in Vyapam Case
On 9 July 2015, the Supreme Court of India ordered and transferred all criminal and death cases which are in connection to the Vyapam case, to the CBI. A bench of judges led by Chief Justice H L Dattu said it will not let it happen that the number of deaths linked to Vyapam scam will increase. The court also said that as it will be a CBI case now, the High Court will not intervene in Vyapam cases. Over a separate petition regarding the removal of the Governor, the court said it will take up that petition later.
11 July 2015
Private Medical Colleges Cancel Entrance Exam
The Association of Private Dental and Medical Colleges (APDMC) has cancelled the entrance examination scheduled to be held on 12 July. The decision came a day after the Madhya Pradesh High Court issued instructions to control the malpractices and installing scanners at examination centres. The examination was to be held at 23 centres for admission to 1,200 seats. Earlier the examination was scheduled for 21 June which was postponed to 12 July which was now cancelled.
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