Vyapam Scam: Is Shivraj Singh Chouhan Really Helpless About Whistleblowers’ Safety?

Posted on July 6, 2015 in Politics

By Abhishek Jha:

People, who can be linked to the Vyapam scam, seemed to be dying everyday with growing demands from the Congress that the Madhya Pradesh BJP government order a CBI probe into the scam. There is a growing concern regarding the inability of the Special Task Force in investigating the matter as some of the people involved in the scam are from outside the state.

The SIT (Special Investigation Team) wasn’t even in the know of the deaths of the accused until it asked the STF why some of the accused had not been questioned. “The issue of deaths came up only when, while monitoring the investigation and looking at who has been arrested and who not, we asked them why these accused had not been questioned. They said these accused had died and so they cannot be questioned,” chairman of the five-member SIT, Justice Chandresh Bhushan has said.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The apathy and indifference towards the case could be gauged from the silence so far on the issue and the reluctance to investigate the deaths of the accused as part of the scam until a journalist investigating the case died and all cameras were pointed at the ministers. Even then MP cabinet minister Kailash Vijayvargiya was so drunk on power that when he was asked about it, he said, “What journalist? Is he bigger than us?” He has offered condolences thereafter to the journalist and explained his misdemeanor as misquotation. His statement was on camera and one can judge oneself how much of a misquotation it was.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is expressing helplessness, as according to law, he is bound to follow whatever the High Court says. So, for once, maybe the callous remarks of his minister can be excused on the grounds that it is not unlawful. However, there are other aspects of the case that don’t seem very much in accordance with the law. Section 11 of The Whistle Blowers Protection Act, 2011 states that “The Central Government shall ensure that no person or a public servant who has made a disclosure under this Act is victimised by initiation of any proceedings or otherwise merely on the ground that such person or a public servant had made a disclosure or rendered assistance in inquiry under this Act.” Section 12 of the same act says that a Competent Authority, which would be the High Court in this case, “shall issue appropriate directions to the concerned Government authorities (including police) which shall take necessary steps, through its agencies, to protect such complainant or public servant or persons concerned.” Despite this, Prashant Pandey, who had exposed tampering with the documents being used by the STF as evidence, the MP police registered an FIR against him.

Earlier this year Dr. Anand Rai, another whistleblower who has been associated with the case, revealed that he has been terminated from his job in August 2010 when he was working on exposing some frauds in clinical trials. On seeking protection from the High Court, he was asked to pay Rs 50,000 to the government per month. His salary at the time was Rs 38,000.

Another whistleblower, Ashish Chaturvedi, told The Times of India that he had been attacked or intimidated about 14 times by unknown people. His personal security officer has himself overheard a group of people saying that Ashish will be cut to pieces if he testifies in court against the MPPEB scam accused. He is reported to have exposed people close to the chief minister. On May 5, when the court directed the state government to provide him lifetime security, but the security officers, just a day after the order, refused to guard him on the grounds that they could not ride with him on his bicycle with their arms. How religiously the law is followed by those who make them and enforce them and are now expressing their helplessness over the subtleties of it, is exposed from the even more shocking fact that the state police has changed 55 officers for Ashish’s security and, reportedly, they themselves have tried to scare him. He too has been asked to pay Rs 50, 000 for his security and, meanwhile, he refuses to give a statement due to the threat to his life.

The heat so far, has been directed only at the state government, but the Prime Minister, who has also been contacted by the whistleblowers, cannot abdicate responsibility in this matter. The Act cited before does put some responsibility on the central government too.

Whoever the puppeteer prince behind the scam is, they sure need a lesson from Machiavelli. A lot of people in this country still have their conscience intact and the whistleblowers’ bravery in the matter despite a threat to their lives bears testimony to that. It is too late now to try to scare people with mysterious deaths.