Monday, 6 July 2015

All you need to know about the Vyapam scam

Over the past week, the murky professional examination scam involving the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) or Vyapam (Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal) has claimed several lives, one after the other, with the latest victim being trainee sub-inspector Anamika Kushwaha, who was found dead in mysterious circumstances in a lake in Sagar district on Monday.
What is Vyapam?
According to its official website, the MPPEB, commonly known by its Hindi acronym, Vyapam, claims to be “the only institute of its kind in the Country that organizes competitive tests for entrance to various professional courses every year on a very large scale.” Besides common entrance tests (CETs) for professional courses such as medicine and engineering, Vyapam also conducts recruitment examinations for “different state level posts which are not to be filled through the Public Service Commission.” These include posts like ‘Sub Inspectors of Police’, rural extension officers in the department of agriculture, training officers in the directorate of employment and training among others.
What is the scam all about?
The malpractices in the examinations conducted by Vyapam. The modus operandi included bribing officials, forging answer sheets, impersonating candidates and even manipulating seating arrangements. The scam also involves the accused employing imposters to write papers on the candidate’s behalf. According to reports, the scam took place between 2008 and 2013.
When did it first come to light?
While there were allegations of malpractices in the examination and recruitment process well before the scam came to light, the magnitude and the extent of the muck within the MPPEB was exposed in 2009, when an Indore-based doctor and activist Dr. Anand Rai filed a public interest litigation in the Madhya Pradesh high court. The PIL led to chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan setting up an inquiry committee, which submitted its report in 2011. Two years later, in 2013, whistleblower Rai made startling revelations said many candidates had procured admission to medical colleges in the state through fraudulent practices, including impersonation and bribery. The investigation was then handed over to a Special Task Force (STF). Since then, over 2000 people, including students, middlemen, businessmen, public officials and politicians have been arrested for their role in the scam.
Have high-profile people been arrested?
Yes. The most high profile arrest in the case includes former MP education minister Lakshmikant Sharma, who is accused of fraud in the contract teachers’ recruitment test. Sharma’s associates, including his former officer on special duty (OSD) O.P. Shukla and personal assistant Sudhir Sharma, have also been arrested. In February, former MP governor Ram Naresh Yadav was asked to resign by the home ministry after an FIR was filed against him, alleging irregularities (accepting bribes from candidates) in the recruitment of forest guards. His former OSD, Dhanraj Yadav, has also been accused of recruiting candidates through his links with Vyapam officials.
The arrests also include R.K. Shivhare, an IPS officer (now suspended), for his alleged involvement in the sub-inspectors’ recruitment tests. According to a report in IBNLive, “Shivhare was accused of getting his daughter Neha and her husband Ajay Anand admitted in Pre-PG 2012 (conducted by Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board—MPPEB) courses fraudulently, following which they secured fifth and seventh positions in the merit list.”
How many people have died during the investigation?
Nearly 50 people have died since 2009, when the Vyapam scam was first unearthed. With more facts coming to light, deaths became murkier. Nearly half of the dead died under mysterious circumstances like road mishaps and disappearences. In 2015 alone, eight people have died, with four in the last one week. Narendra Singh Tomar, an accused in the case, died on 28 June, following a heart attack in Indore Jail. Tomar’s death was followed by accused Rajan Arya, who was out on bail, when he died due to a liver infection. The most high-profile casualty included Akshay Singh, an Aaj Takjournalist, who suffered a heart attack while interviewing Vyapam scam victim’s father. Arun Kumar, the dean of the NS Medical College in Jabalpur, was found dead at a Delhi hotel where he was staying en route to Agartala for a conference.
What about the whistleblowers?
The scam has seen a range of activists coming out and exposing the rot within Madhya Pradesh’s professional examination board. Besides Dr. Anand Rai, whistleblowers in the case included Ashish Chaturvedi, a social activist from Gwalior and Prashant Pandey, a former IT consultant hired by the STF. All of them have complained of police harassment and constant threats to their lives for their role in exposing the scam.

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