July 12, 2015

Vyapam: the Killer Scam

THE Vyapam scandal in Madhya Pradesh has reached alarming proportions with the spate of deaths of persons accused in the scam or those who were beneficiaries of the racket. The Vyavasik Pariksha Mandal (Vyapam) is the Professional Examination Board. It conducts examinations for admissions to higher education and recruitment for government services. The scam which came to light in July, 2013 has now assumed the character of a killer scam. So far 24 accused persons have died “unnatural deaths” according to the Special Task Force investigating the scam. Another 22 persons who were linked to the scam have also died mysteriously making a total of 46. Practically every day new deaths are being reported. One estimate puts the total of such deaths as high as 146. The Vyapam scam involved facilitating copying, impersonation of candidates appearing in examinations and even introducing high marks on blank answer sheets. The racket involved hundreds of crores of rupees. In terms of the wide network of persons involved and the multi-layers stretching from the governor’s residence to lowly government employees, this scam is unprecedented. The STF had filed an FIR against the Governor, Ram Naresh Yadav, which was quashed by the High Court on the grounds that the governor enjoys immunity under the Constitution. One of the sons of the governor, accused in the case was found dead in mysterious circumstances in his house in Lucknow. The former BJP education minister is in jail as an accused. There are charges of complicity of the Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan. Two top RSS men are among the accused. As of now 1800 people have been arrested in the case. Yet the widespread impression prevailing in the state is that this is only the tip of the iceberg. The BJP state government had so far been refusing to refer the case to a CBI investigation. At present, there is an SIT investigation under the supervision of the Madhya Pradesh High Court. After the deaths of a Delhi-based journalist investigating the case and a Jabalpur medical professor who enquired into the admissions in his college, the nationwide outcry has compelled Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan to say that he will approach the High Court to request that the matter be handed over to the CBI. But this is not sufficient. The CBI investigation should be supervised by the Supreme Court, otherwise, the BJP government at the centre can interfere in the CBI enquiry. Further, it is essential that Shivraj Chouhan step down from the chief ministership so that a fair and impartial investigation can be conducted. His conduct in office has not inspired confidence that this can be done while he is in office. The Left parties and other opposition parties have called for a state-wide hartal on July 16 to press this demand. The Vyapam scam flourished under the patronage of the BJP government in Madhya Pradesh. The killer scam has dented the image of the BJP and its state government badly. The Modi government at the centre cannot pretend that it is business as usual, when the ruling party and its ministers at the centre and chief ministers in the states are engulfed in corruption and nepotism. (July 8, 2015)