By Abhishek Jha:
Back in 2013, after reports of irregularities in the state PMT (Pre-medical Test) and a PIL filed by the parents of students, notices were served by the Indore Bench of MP High Court to Madhya Pradesh Medical Education Department, Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (also known as Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal or Vyapam), and Medical Council of India.
Ineligible students made it to the merit list with the help of a huge network of officials, politicians, technicians, and middlemen. It involved impersonation, tampering with the OMR sheets, an engine and bogie system (a current student, seated between aspiring applicants, who let other students copy from his answer script).
Investigation revealed in 2014 that examinations in addition to the state PMT, like the entrance examination conducted by SBI and other nationalised banks, were also being rigged by impersonators. This has led to over 2000 arrests, including of students and parents.
Who is involved?
A Special Task Force (STF) was constituted and a huge scam was unearthed in the process of investigation. Some of the major arrests have been that of former state education minister and BJP leader Laxmikant Sharma, BJP leader Vandana Dwivedi, Vyapam’s former exam controller Pankaj Trivedi, VYPAM system analysts Nitin Mahendra and Ajay Sen, and state PMT’s examination in-charge CK Mishra.
Whistleblowers Prashant Pandey and Dr. Anand Rai have also alleged Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s involvement in the scam. They have claimed that the documents being used by the STF are tampered because the original documents, in possession with Mr. Pandey, mentions the Chief Minister’s name 48 times whereas there is no mention of him in the STF’s version. They also reportedly approached the PMO and minister Kailash Vijayvargiya but didn’t get any response from them.
What’s happening now?
Apart from the use of fraudulent means to acquire seats of power or seats in educational institutions and the huge number of people involved, there have also been deaths of several key accused in the two years since the scam was brought to light. While official accounts put the number of deaths at 25, unofficial reports say the number of deaths of people related to the scam could be as high as 40. The most recent deaths have been that of Dr. Narendra Singh Tomar and Dr. Rajendra Arya. While Tomar died in jail on June 27 after complaining of chest pain, Dr. Arya, who was out on bail, died on 28th after sudden deterioration of health.
Home Minister Babulal Gaur, responding to Congress’s demands for a CBI probe, said that there is no need for a CBI probe as all deaths are natural deaths. Congress leader Digvijay Singh, in a petition to the Supreme Court, has asked for a CBI probe citing threat to the lives of the whistleblowers and SIT’s deliberate ignoring of crucial evidence implicating the Chief Minister.
If the Chief Minister’s name is tainted, there could be more trouble for BJP at the centre, which is still finding it hard to cope with LalitGate. It will also bring the party under public scrutiny as it had promised to undo the corruption during UPA regime, which had brought the incumbent party a shaming defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.