The Vyapam Scam is one of the most talked about scams in the country. Not only was there a lot of money involved but a series of untimely deaths has made it even more complex.
In case, you aren’t up to speed with the scam, here are answers to questions you may be too embarrassed to ask:
1. What is the ‘Vyapam Scam’? Why was there so much money involved in an exam?
Vyapam (Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal) is Madhya Pradesh’s Professional Examination Board, which conducts exams for enrolling into educational institutes and applying for government jobs. Since its inception in 2007, Vyapam has been involved in fraudulent activities. However, in 2009, a complex scam in the system was identified.
Undeserving candidates would pay middlemen about Rs.10 lakh – Rs.40 lakh to rig exams. This would be done by sending impostors to write exams and leaking the question papers. These imposters would be paid about Rs. 25,000 – Rs. 1, 00,000. Top-level public servants made the most money out of this scam by admitting unworthyy candidates into government institutions. As money exchanged hands at these different levels, Vyapam became a scam of over Rs. 10,000 crore.
2. Didn’t anyone realise what was going on? How did it come to light?
With most of the system plagued with corruption, the malpractices at Vyapam remained under wraps for a long time. However, eventually people started to figure out the incompetency among public sector employees, particularly doctors, which led to suspicion regarding Vyapam’s credibility.
Medical officer Anand Rai, a key whistleblower in this case, noticed how many medical exam toppers had poor academic records but came from influential families. He filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the organization with the evidence he had collected. This evidence is what initially exposed the Vyapam scam.
3. What did the authorities do about it?
In response to Rai’s PIL, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan set up a committee to probe the allegations. This committee found that 114 candidates had passed their Pre-Medical Tests (PMT) through impersonators. These candidates were asked to quit their courses by the state government and their results were cancelled.
Then in 2012, the Indore police arrested four people impersonating candidates in the PMT exam. After this, a Special Task Force (STF) of the Madhya Pradesh police was appointed to take over the case. As evidence started to pile up, findings revealed that even top-level politicians of the Madhya Pradesh government were involved. Keeping this in mind, the Indore High Court formed a Special Investigating Team (SIT) in November 2014 to supervise the STF’s work.
4. Who all were involved in the scam?
The Madhya Pradesh Governor, Ram Naresh Yadav was charged with rigging Vyapam’s forest guard recruitment examination. As investigations went on, over 2500 people were accused of being involved of which 2000 were arrested and 500 wanted. Evidence found by Prashant Pandey, another whistleblower in this case, even alleged that CM Shivraj Chauhan had been in on the scam. Subsequently, the Congress accused the BJP-run state Government of conspiracy and appealed the Supreme Court to hand over this case to the CBI.
5. Tell me more about the whistleblowers. What is their story?
A whistleblower is a person who brings illegal activities or information to the authorities. Over here, Ashish Chaturvedi, Anand Rai and Prashant Pandey brought out crucial evidence that aided the case. Chaturvedi revealed evidence against top public servants, while Pandey found evidence on the computers of the accused.
But as people related to this case began to die of mysterious circumstances, the whistleblowers feared for their own lives. After filing the PIL, Anand Rai and his wife, both medical practitioners, were harassed by the government and were randomly transferred or suspended. To prevent this kind of harassment, the Central Government passed the Whistleblowers Protection Act in 2011. Rai and other key whistleblowers have stood firm despite the potential death threats, and have since been given police protection.
6. What’s the deal with so many people dying in this case?
Since this case became public in 2013, people related to the scam started to die of unnatural causes. Sailesh Yadav, the Governor’s son, was found dead in his home, while deans of medical colleges also died under suspicious circumstances. Aaj Tak TV reporter, Akshay Singh, was found dead soon after conducting an interview related to the case.
Policemen, middlemen, students, and parents of students – the list of deaths kept growing longer. By July 2015, the SIT reported that the Vyapam Scam had claimed 48 lives. In 2017, Praveen Yadav, who was an accuse, committed suicide a day before the hearing at Madhya Pradesh High Court. He was said to be under stress as a result of being jobless.
7. So what’s going on with the case right now? Will we ever get to the bottom of it?
As the series of untimely deaths happened while the state authorities were investigating the case, questions were raised about the credibility of the investigation. In July 2015, the Supreme Court transferred the case to the CBI. In February 2017, Supreme Court cancelled admissions of 634 doctors who entered medical colleges in Madhya Pradesh after clearing entrance tests involved in the scam.
8. Why is the Vyapam Scam such a big deal?
The Vyapam Scam is a unique one, even for a country as riddled with corruption as India. Not only does this level of fraud render the entire educational, bureaucratic and political system of Madhya Pradesh meritless but it presents a sinister conspiracy of top politicians and government officials in organized crime and systematic murder.