Promise of “Achchhe Din” Turns into a Nightmare!!
Babulal Gaur, Home Ministe, Government of Madhya Pradesh
A multi-crore scam in which over Rs.2,000crore is reported to have been exchanged as bribes, a death toll of 48 (as per the last count) and the quote of Madhya Pradesh minister above- they together capture not just the extent of corruption the BJP is capable of, but also of the brutality and arrogance it displays while being corrupt.
Soon after the BJP had indulged in much public display of self-congratulation for no scam being reported in its one year of governance, the #LalitGate exposed the hollowness of its false claims. And now the specter of massive corruption that had begun to surface in early 2000, has come back to haunt not just the BJP but several others who in various ways have been connected to the case.
What is VYAPAM Scam
VYAPAM, short form of the Madhya Pradesh Vyavasayik Pariksha Mandal (also called Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board-MPPEB), claims to be “the only organisation of its kind in the country that holds competitive tests for entrance to various professional courses every year on a very large scale.” Besides Common Entrance Tests (CETs) for professional courses such as Medicine and Engineering, Vyapam also conducts recruitment examinations for “different state level posts which are not to be filled through the Public Service Commission” like sub inspectors of police, assistant grade III/ steno typists, controller food and drugs, and for jobs in agriculture, women and child development, jail, pollution control and in various other government departments.
The Vyapam Scam is a multi crore scam involving serious manipulations and other administrative irregularities in the MPPEB conducted selection process to various government colleges and jobs. The manipulations in the selection process involved impersonation of candidates, rampant copying, blank answer sheets and fake marks.
While in 2007-2008 itself, a report by the Madhya Pradesh Local Fund Audit found alleged financial and administrative irregularities, including unauthorized disposal of application forms worth crores of rupees by the MPPEB, the scam first came to light in 2009 when an Indore based activist Anand Rai filed a PIL requesting investigation into these complaints and the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was forced to set up a committee headed by the State Joint Director of Medical Education to probe the allegations. The committee set up in 2009 submitted its report to the government in November 2011. However, the big exposure came in June 2013 with the busting of a racket in pre-medical tests. Following startling revelations, once again by the whistleblower Anand Rai, the MP High Court handed over the investigation to a Special Task Force (STF) in July 2013. Since then, almost 2000 people, including students, middlemen, businessmen, public officials and politicians have been arrested for their role in the scam. (Live Mint 7 July 2015). However, the bigwigs of course remained untouched and several accused or those investigating the case were found dying under mysterious circumstances.
Following charge of unsatisfactory investigation by STF, Madhya Pradesh High Court, on November 5, 2014, ordered setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to act as a watchdog for the court. The SIT is a 3-member team chaired by Justice Chandresh Bhushan, a retired Judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court.
Some High Profile Arrests
Laxmikant Sharma: A prominent BJP minister with strong RSS background who held portfolios from mining and higher & technical education to culture and public relations during the 10 years from 2003 and 2013. He was the in-charge of MPPEB in his capacity as the state’s Technical Education Minister. (Indian Express June 19, 2014)
O. P. Shukla: Laxmikant Sharma’s Officer on Special Duty (OSD).
Sudhir Sharma: A mining baron of MP with RSS background and once an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) of the education minister Laxmikant Sharma.
Pankaj Trivedi: MPPEB Examination Controller, who occupied the position due to the political patronage of RSS/BJP and Sudhir Sharma.
Nitin Mahendra and Ajay Sen Senior: System Analysts with MPPEB.
R. K. Shivhare, suspended IPS Officer (who absconded and later surrendered in April 2014), Ravikant Dwivedi, Suspended Joint Commissioner (Revenue), Dr. Jagdish Sagar, Dr. Sanjeev Shilpakar and Sanjay Gupta (all three were part of the racket for the PMT scam), Sudhir Rai, Santosh Gupta, Tarang Sharma (another gang much bigger than and a competitor to Sagar’s racket)
High Profile Accused Evading Arrests
Governor Ram Naresh Yadav: In February 24, 2015, Yadav was charged by the STF for criminal conspiracy in rigging the MPPEB forest guard recruitment examination. His son Shailesh was an accused in the contractual teachers’ recruitment. Interestingly, Shailesh died under mysterious circumstances in March, 2015. Ram Naresh Yadav evaded arrest by citing constitutional immunity to Governor’s post!
Dr. Ajay Shankar Mehta, a close associate of the CM and an accused got bail with another scam accused as a guarantor. (‘Man who ‘fixed’ bribe bailed out two MP test scam accused’, Indian Express, 5 Aug 2014)
OSD of the MP CM, Prem Prasad and his daughter, granted bail without any opposition from the state government.
Dr. Gulab Singh Kirar, chairman of State Backward Classes Commission, and his son are accused. Though both are said to be absconding, Kirar has been spotted at several functions. Gulab Singh Kirar enjoys the ‘minister of state’ status and his son Shakti Pratap Singh finished among top ranks in medical entrance. An FIR was lodged against Shakti Pratap Singh, but he was never arrested and the name of Gulab Singh Kirar as an accused mysteriously disappeared from the list provided by the state home department!
Sudhir Singh Bhadoria : A key accused, Bhadoria was Controller of Examinations in Vyapam between 2008 to 2011 and relative of Union Minister Narendra Tomar. He has not only ‘not been’ arrested, ironically he continues to be the director of the government engineering college in Indore.
…Sudhir Sharma’s rise during the 10 years of the BJP regime had been stupendous. He was a teacher in an RSS-run Saraswati Shishu Mandir. When his close friend, Laxmikant Sharma became mining minister, Sudhir quit his job and joined the mining business. Within years, he emerged as a top notch mining baron.
Leveraging his friendship with Laxmikant Sharma, Sudhir got an associate of his, Pankaj Trivedi appointed as examination controller in the PEB. Trivedi was a lecturer in an Indore college, so his elevation in the PEB raised many eyebrows in bureaucratic circles. One of Pankaj’s brothers, Piyush Trivedi, is the vice chancellor of the state’s only technical university. Their cousin, Sudhanshu Trivedi, is BJP’s national spokesperson, and has been accused of being one of the behind-the-scenes players in the scam.
As has been reported by the media, Sudhir Sharma was also close to RSS leaders such as late KS Sudarshan and Suresh Soni. Both the RSS stalwarts are said to have recommended candidates in job tests, although this has since been denied by the STF.
According to investigators, Pankaj Trivedi turned out to be more adept at manipulating the system than Sudhir had ever imagined. He allegedly managed to persuade all the key functionaries in the board, notably chief system analyst Nitin Mahindra, assistant programmer C K Mishra, Ajay Sen and Santosh Gupta.
For years, Pankaj Trivedi and company got away with cheating thousands of deserving medical students and job aspirants, primarily because they were secure in the belief that Laxmikant Sharma, who was also technical education minister and former key aide to chief minister Chouhan, was protecting them. Although the PEB is supposed to be a self-financed, autonomous body with a senior IAS officer as chairman, it was Trivedi and company who called the shots.
Serial Deaths Under Mysterious Circumstances
Even as the masterminds and the major beneficiaries continue to evade jail, the relatively smaller fries among the accused and those associated with Vyapam investigation have died mysterious deaths in last two years.
Namrata Damor, who was suspected to have cleared PMT using unfair means, was found near railway tracks at Kayta village in Ujjain on January 7, 2012. NDTV reported on 8 Jan 2015: “She was murdered. There is not even one percent chance of a natural death,” said BB Purohit, a doctor in the team that performed the autopsy on Namrata Damor, whose death has been brought back into focus after a TV journalist died last weekend minutes after interviewing her father.”
Vijay Singh, another accused in the Vyapam scam, was found dead at a local lodge in Kanker on 28 April under mysterious circumstances.
Narendra Singh Tomar had been named as an accused as well as witness in this scam. Alleged to have arranged for impostors to write the exams for students, he was found dead, once again under “mysterious circumstances” in Indore Jail.
Amit Sagar, accused of rigging results of forest guard recruitment examination for three candidates, was found dead under suspicious circumstances in Sheopur district before special investigation team could arrest him.
The list indeed, as mentioned above, is a very long one and besides these accused, it includes crucial witnesses and journalists like Akshay Singh who were determined to investigate further and bring the truth out! Two deans of medical colleges who were assisting the probe too couldn’t escape the murderous claws of Vyapam!
Dr. Arun Sharma, Dean of the Jabalpur-based Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Medical College, who assisting the Special Task force by compiling a list of students who gained admission illegally, was found dead in a Delhi hotel last Sunday.
Dr D.K. Sakalley, predecessor of Dr. Sharma, died last year on 4 July again under ‘mysterious’ circumstances. While it was claimed that he had self-immolated, the pictures of him running out of his home engulfed in flames had sent shivers down the spines of all those involved in the task of assisting the investigation.
This endless saga of horror continues as the mysterious death toll rose to 48, when a female trainee cop who had been recruited under Vyapam, committed suicide on 6 July 2015.
And even as the death toll continues to rise, the whistle blowers are being left to the mercy of killers. One of the whistle blowers Anand Rai has been provided security only from 11 am to 7 pm, while another complainant, Ashish has been seen on TV channels being accompanied by an ill equipped security guard on a cycle. Why such callousness when the threat to their lives is so real?
The Questions BJP Govt in the State and Centre Cannot Escape
Can BJP escape the fact that Vyapam scam flourished through 2009-13, directly under Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s watch given the facts that (a) Madhya Pradesh Medical Education Department was headed by none other than Shivraj Singh Chouhan during 2008-12, when hundreds of fake admissions took place and (b) Shivaraj Singh Chouhan claims to have started ‘investigating’ the Vyapam scam ever since the initial expose in 2009?
How can Shivraj Chouhan escape scrutiny and investigation in such a situation, particularly when his OSD himself is under accused scanner?
Who will establish the veracity of the excel sheet, disclosed by whistle blower and investigative officer Prashant Pandey, which carried reference to ‘CM’?
Why has the STF failed to make any headway in apprehending close associates of CM named in the scam, like Gulab Singh Kirar and others?
How come the Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram Naresh Yadav, despite Vyapam scam taint, survived in his post and continues to enjoy Modi government’s favour, when almost every other Governor appointed during the UPA rule has been shifted, sacked and nudged out by the Narendra Modi government?
Why is it that even after so many deaths CM was adamant against CBI probe?
What does it say about the BJP led state and central governments, when an MP BJP Minister Babulal Gaur trivialises the Vyapam deaths as natural “Jo aaya hai, wo ek din jaayega” (Whoever is born, will one day die) and the Union Law Minister (Sadanand Gowda) ridicules Vyapam Scam exposes as ‘silly affair’?
Vyapam Scam isn’t just about the money that exchanged hands, it is equally about those who were denied their right to study the course of their choice or a job that they deserved, despite having the ability for the same, just because someone richer bribed and bought the degree or the job!! It is equally about destroying our health care systems by recruiting in them doctors who bribed their way through medical colleges and are now perhaps more focused on recovering the crores of bribes they initially paid; it is about destroying our education systems by imposing on us teachers who are conceptually lacking but had resources to pay for the job or the degree; it is also about destroying whatever remains of the police department by recruiting in it thousands of dishonest officers. Can police officers who bribed their way to get this job ever be entrusted to undertake an honest inquiry into a scam like this!!
In case of Vyapam, the culprits are guilty not just for the money they made and the dreams they shattered but also of ending lives… lives of the 48 people mentioned above and the lives of thousands of others who continue to live at the mercy of the hundreds of dishonest, ill trained, corrupt doctors, police officers, teachers and the other service personnel, that Vyapam created.
The involvement of BJP ministers, the involvement of several people close to BJP-RSS leadership and its continuing reign since 2003 is a proof enough of how neck deep BJP is in this particular scam, not forgetting that all the deaths under mysterious and suspicious circumstances have also happened solely during BJP’s rule in the state.
Is infesting the country’s health care, educational and law and order structures with termites that threaten to destroy such crucial institutions of the country, the BJP’s idea of serving the nation?
The truth of Vyapam must come out and in order to ensure the same, AISA demands:
A Supreme Court monitored SIT inquiry into this scam and the deaths that have taken place.
Removal of CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, whose government has been found to be involved in the scam and who has shamefully failed to protect the lives of all those who could have enabled the truth to come out.
Provisions of adequate security for the surviving accused, witnesses, investigators and the whistle blower
AISA organized a Protest March in Jantar Mantar, New Delhi, against the role and Involvement of BJP Government in Madhaya Pradesh in the Vyapam Scam. Around fifty activists took part in the protest March.