The Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) scam also known as the Vyapam scam has snowballed into a major political controversy with several top level politicians, bureaucrats and middlemen involved in the fraud and numerous witnesses and accused dying under mysterious circumstances.
The Vyapam scam is a massive admission and recruitment scandal that has been labeled as one of the most notorious scams in the country. It is related to the irregularities in admission in the state-run medical and engineering colleges and recruitment in government jobs. The MPPEB or Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal (Vyapam) conducts entrance and recruitment tests for admission in medical and engineering courses, and selection in certain government services. The scam involved organized multiple rackets that helped the candidates by employing imposters to write the exams, manipulated seating arrangements and involved rampant copying, forging of answer sheets and fake marks. A series of unexplained deaths of people, both witnesses and accused, linked to the examination racket have intensified the mystery. Forty people related to the scam have died since the story came to light in 2013. Two more deaths in the last two days have further deepened the suspicions about the deliberate elimination of the people linked to the racket.
Akshay Singh, a TV reporter of the AajTak television channel who was in Madhya Pradesh to cover the deaths related to the scam, died mysteriously on Friday after interviewing the parents of a 19-year old girl who had been found dead on a railway track after her name figured in the scam. Less than 24 hours after his death, Dr Arun Sharma, the dean of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Medical College and Hospital in Jabalpur, who was assisting the probe , was found dead at a hotel in Delhi on Sunday. Amit Sagar, a student of Mhow Veterinary College, who was alleged to have a role in the scam, was found dead in a pond on February 18. Even though the incident occurred on February 18, the news of his death came to light only on Monday. The charred body of Dr Sakalle, predecessor of Sharma was found at his home in Jabalpur a year ago. More than 2000 people have been arrested in connection with the infamous scam. The Madhya Pradesh Local Fund Audit office for 2007-08 had found alleged financial and administrative irregularities in Vyapam including unauthorized disposal of application forms worth crores of rupees. Complaints which were raised the very next year were paid little attention by the government. Another episode, in which a doctor along with other officials at Vyapam who were involved in the racket, passed the disqualified candidates in June 2013, also came to light.
Anand Rai, a social worker from Indore, had filed a PIL with the Madhya Pradesh High Court which ordered an independent investigation in July. The details revealed by the Assistant Programmer and System Analyst who were arrested during the early stages of investigation were shocking. The fraud had begun the very next year the BJP came to power in Madhya Pradesh and reportedly involved the top BJP leaders including former Chief Minister Uma Bharati, former Education Minister Laxmikant Sharma and BJP leader Sudhir Sharma. Bharati was alleged to have recommended the names of certain candidates to Laxmikant Sharma. Allegations against Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his wife Sadhana Singh, that they indirectly played a role in changing the mark lists, were also raised by the Congress. Laxmikant Sharma and 129 others were arrested following the inquiry and an FIR has been registered against the son of the Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram Naresh Yadav. Shailesh Yadav was found dead at his father’s residence in Lucknow in March this year.
The state government had presented the 25 deaths in the High Court as natural deaths. The multi-layered scam involving the top leaders has claimed the lives of 25 whistleblowers, witnesses and the accused over the past few years putting the death toll at 44 triggering allegations of systematic elimination of people linked to the scam and the attempts to sabotage the case. In the wake of several unexplained deaths, Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has approached the Supreme Court demanding a CBI probe into the matter citing the inability of the state investigation team to probe the matter. He cited the 139 phone calls made from the Chief Minister’s residence to the jailed MPPEB controller and main scam accused Pankaj Trivedi. The attempts made by the top bigwigs to sabotage the case are despicable. The efforts to slaughter innocents instead of penalizing the culprits are anti democratic and inhumane. The Sangh Parivar should carry out the ‘cleansing’ of their government instead of emphasizing the Swachh Bharat campaigns and clicking selfies.