With three deaths in 48 hours, the much sensational Vyapam scam has once again come to the fore in more toxic and murkier form giving the Congress and other opposition parties enough ammunition to pound on Shivraj Singh Chouhan - led BJP government in Madhya Pradesh.
A reporter with a Hindi news channel covering the scam died after falling ill suddenly on Saturday (July 4) while the dean of a Jabalpur Medical college who was assisting the investigation team was found dead at a hotel in New Delhi on Sunday. A day later, a woman trainee sub-inspector, who got into the police force through an exam conducted by Vyapam, was found dead in a lake at Sagar in Madhya Pradesh. The fact that all these three deaths were happened under mysterious circumstances makes social activists smell a rat.
What is Vyapam Scam?
Vyapam is Hindi acronym of Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal or (Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board) which conducts examinations and recruitments to government jobs in the state. The scam, dated back to 2000, came to light in 2007 after allegations were raised from various corners that corrupt officials in the board had taken bribe to compromise the rank list.
Scamsters used three main techniques
The scam blew over in 2011 when a committee set up by the government released its report saying more than hundred students had passed pre-medical test using impersonation. Following this, the government set up a Special Task Force, which in its investigation, revealed that several high-profile politicians and officials were involved in the scam. More than 2,000 people have been arrested so far in connection with the scam.
Who are involved?
Though the scam unearthed as a low-profile case, it went beyond the state boundaries and created ripples even in Delhi with a number of politicians and bureaucrats figured in the list of the accused. The scam has thrown up names of top politicians including Madhya Pradesh governor Ram Naresh Yadav and former education minister Laxmikant Sharma. While Yadav, a Congress leader, was charged for criminal conspiracy in rigging the MPPEB forest guard recruitment examination, the BJP leader was arrested after his alleged involvement in contractual teachers recruitment scam. The opposition Congress has accused Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his wife Sadhna Singh of being involved in the case.
A brief timeline
2009: Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan set up a committee to look into the irregularities in the recruitments
2011 July: MPPEB monitored 145 suspected students during the Pre-Medical Test and caught eight for impersonation
2011 November: The government-appointed committee submitted its report saying more than hundred students had passed pre-medical test using impersonation.
2013: Dr. Anand Rai, an Indore based ophthalmologist claimed that thousands of candidates secured admission to various medical colleges in the state through unfair means like impersonation and bribery.
2013 July: Indore crime branch arrested 20 students from various city hotels 2013 July: Indore Police arrested Dr Jagdish Sagar, the mastermind of the scam, and confiscated a list of 317 candidates from him.
2013 September: MPPEB’s exam controller Pankaj Trivedi was arrested for his alleged role in the scam.
2013 November: The Special Task Force revealed that Vyapam officials rigged five more recruitment tests - Pre-PG, Food Inspector Selection Test, Milk Federation test, Subedar-Sub Inspector and Platoon Commander Selection Test and Police Constable Recruitment Test.
2013 December: Special Task Force filed a supplementary chargesheet against 34 accused in which 30 were guardians of the students.
2014 April: Twenty-seven students of Mahatma Gandhi Memorial College were expelled for having allegedly used fraudulent means to clear the PMT-2012.
2014 June: STF arrested former state technical education minister and BJP leader Laxmikant Sharma.
2014 June: STF issued a statement that it has arrested over 100 medical students for their involvement in the PMT scam.
2014 November: Madhya Pradesh High Court rejected the Congress leader Digvijay Singh's petition for CBI probe but ordered setting up of a special investigation team (SIT) to monitor the ongoing probe.
2015 February: Governor Ram Naresh Yadav was booked in PEB scam.
2015 March: Shailesh Yadav, son of Governor Ram Naresh Yadav, was found dead at Governor's official residence in Lucknow
2015 July: Vyapam scam turns murkier with the death of a journalist, a Jabalpur college dean and a woman trainee sub-inspector in a span of 48 hours.
2015 July: Supreme Court agreed to hear a petition seeking the removal of Governor Ram Naresh Yadav.
Mystery shrouds over a number of deaths
Ever since the investigation began, a number of people directly or indirectly connected to the scam, died under mysterious circumstances with the latest being the death of a woman trainee sub-inspector who secured the post through an exam conducted by the MPPEB.
On Monday (July 6), the body of Anamika Sikarwar was found in a lake adjacent to the Police Training Academy in Sagar district headquarters. Her death came a day after the death of Dr Arun Sharma, dean of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Medical College in Jabalpur, who was assisting the investigators in the probe. Sharma was found dead at a Delhi hotel on Sunday.
Incidentally, Sharma was the second dean of the college to have died under mysterious circumstances in the last one year. The charred body of D K Sakalle - who was inquiring into admissions of candidates for whom proxies allegedly appeared in the Pre-Medical Test - was found at his residence in July last year. On Saturday, TV journalist Akshay Singh died under mysterious circumstances soon after he had interviewed parents of a girl found dead after her name cropped up in the admission and recruitment scandal.
The most high-profile death was that of Shailesh Yadav, son of Madhya Pradesh governor and Congress leader Ram Naresh Yadav. Shailesh, who was an accused in the contractual teachers' recruitment, was found dead at Governor's official residence in Lucknow in March 2015.
Between 2009 and 2015, more than a dozen people who had allegedly acted as middlemen in the scam died under mysterious circumstances. In January 2012, mutilated body of Namrata Damor, whose name appeared in the list of students who had cleared PMT-2010 using unfair means, found dead near a railway track in Ujjain district. In January 2015, Ramendra Singh Bhadoria, a medical student who was accused of using unfair means to clear PMT, found hanging at his home in Gwalior.
In April 2015, the body of Vijay Singh Patel, a pharmacist who was released on bail after being arrested in the case, was found in a lodge run by a BJP MLA. Another accused Narendra Singh Tomar, who was lodged in Indore jail, died on the way to hospital after he complained of chest pain in June 2015.