By Rashmi Singh, ILS Law College, Pune.
The newspapers are once again flooded with the news of a high profile scam breathing for its life in the state of Madhya Pradesh. The recent death of an MBBS student has brought the light on the alleged rigging of the selection process for government colleges and jobs in the State by the Government. The scam has attracted all the attention it could, due to the involvement of several bureaucrats, businessmen, politicians and even their families and its high financial nature, running into crores of rupees. It is proving to be a showdown for various high ranking government officials of the State involving the Chief Minister at the forefront.
The scam relates to manipulation of the selection process for admission in government colleges and recruitment in government jobs, conducted by Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) or Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal (Vyapam), hence termed as the ‘Vyapam Scam’. It relates to collusion among exam candidates, government officials and middlemen for securing of seats in colleges and for jobs in exchange of kickbacks. The scam has its roots way back in mid – 1990’s, which was the time when irregularities in the procedure of entrance test were starting to get observed, however, majorly, the activities relating to the appearance of proxy candidates in examinations became rampant during the 2009 Pre-Medical Test. The main techniques followed to rig the exams were impersonation, engine and bogie system and manipulation of OMR sheets.
In 2012, a Special Task Force (STF) of the State police was established by the Chief Minister to monitor the scam. It was criticised as it was formed in a hurry and due to the involvement of various BJP leaders. However, the STF was successful in producing a strong report based on which a large number of arrests were made in 2013, including two major arrests. It is also administered by the High Court through a Special Investigation Team (SIT). As of now, over 2,000 people have been arrested in connection with the scam, including former Education Minister, Laxmikant Sharma. The arrested people included over a hundred of politicians, several MPPEB officials, bureaucrats, middlemen, students and their parents. The Supreme Court has also agreed to hear the petition of the Madhya Pradesh Government asking to initiate a CBI probe into the matter.
Such scams have also existed in the past at various levels; however, this scam has gained notoriety due to a rise in the number of deaths of persons related to the scam. The most high profile deaths are that of the son of the Governor of the state, Shailesh Yadav, who allegedly helped 10 candidates to get through government colleges, Jabalpur Medical College Dean, D.K. Sakalley and a TV journalist who had interviewed a dead girl’s parents. Suspicious circumstances hover over many deaths related to the scam. Most of the deaths happened in a natural way however the circumstances and the timings in which such deaths took place raise doubts. This is the major reason that the State Government is voicing concern against independent probes in these deaths. The deaths started occurring two months before the Supreme Court deadline to file the charge sheets relating to the case and subsequently the accused had put the blame on persons who were already dead. Such incidents have brought nothing but fear in the mind of the whistleblowers, of their lives. The involvement of the Chief Minister of the State as well his wife has given impetus to the nature of the scam. The CM is trying to remain unwary of his involvement in the scam; however there is strong evidence from the whistleblowers suggesting his involvement in the scam. The issue has also taken a political turn where it has been noted that none of the leaders from the Centre have come forward to put a statement in favour of the CM.
As far as the administration and monitoring of the scam is concerned, there is assertion from the side of the opposition for the conduct of investigations in a neutral way including the involvement of the Supreme Court. Now it is upon the Supreme Court to decide the course of action to deal with the investigations in the case. A logical method would be to initiate a CBI enquiry into the matter at the current stage when the stakes are so high that it is costing the lives of people. The most important concern with respect to the case, as of now, is the protection of whistleblowers due to the incidents of deaths of such a large number of innocent persons.
Such cases of rampant abuse of power and corrupt political indulgence can only be curbed when there is a neutral method of investigation appointed. The nature of the case has become horrific due to the cases of deaths in suspicious circumstances. Nothing but a strong investigation by a competent authority empowered by the judiciary could be a relief to such a situation. Such cases also bring into light the delirious nature of the education system in our country, wherein the basic rights of the deserving candidates are depreciating to such an extent that it has come to the cost of their lives. The irony carves out when such situations arise at the hands of the people who are responsible for the governance of our lives and interests. Scams have arisen in the past and will continue to get uncovered in future, however what is required at such stages is the proper monitoring and investigation of the issue at hand through competent authority and enactment of measures to take care that such issues do not arise in future.