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EDITORIALS

A Tale of Greed and Cynicism


Investigation into Madhya Pradeshs Vyapam scam must be completed quickly.

obs-for-sale scams and bribes for admissions to educational


institutions are too commonplace in India to elicit little
more than perfunctory media attention. However, the
Vyapam (Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal) scam
involving the states board for professional examinations and
recruitment to government jobs boggles even a scam-hardened
imagination. A number of witnesses and accused have died in
mysterious circumstances and allegations have been levelled at
the highest in the state, including the Chief Minister and the
Governor of the state.
The scam involved posts of contractual teachers and police
constables, among many others, and the premedical test (PMT)
that determines admissions to medical colleges. Many of those
who paid bribes to secure these jobs or admissions had taken
loans or mortgaged property. It does not need any investigation
to work out how those who have paid such bribes would
conduct themselves in their careers and treat the public.
This has ruined the educational prospects and careers of
thousands of innocent young people and undermined the
already eroded faith of the citizens in public institutions and
government. First exposed in 2013, the investigations into this
many-layered scam have been meandering. Now, the Supreme
Court has given the State Task Force (STF) four months from the
end of March this year to complete it. The Madhya Pradesh (MP)
High Court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) is
monitoring the inquiry.
In the little over two years since the racket was exposed by a
doctor, Anand Rai, little has transpired to restore public faith.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is often held up as an honest
and efficient administrator, not just by the Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP) but also in much of the mainstream media. An
impartial and quick inquiry would not only have added to this
well-publicised image, it would have brought to book those who
messed with such an important area. The many delays and
impediments to investigate and find out who has been responsible
for this have only strengthened suspicions that the highest
political authorities of the state have something to hide.
Those who operated this complexly structured scam banked
on the desperation for secure government jobs and wellpaying professions. It is cynicism and public disservice at its
worst. The Vyapam scam is a model (if any more are needed in
this country) of how greed and corruption coupled with
bureaucratic overreach and political patronage can make a
mockery of institutions and systems that are supposed to
provide a level playing field to young aspirants. It involved
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well-planned manipulation at every level: forgery of certificates, impersonation of candidates, tampering of marksheets,
indulging corrupt private players and vested interests in higher
education, diluting standards for recruitmentthe list is
endless. Surely, this would have involved people at many layers of the bureaucracy and political patronage of a very high
order for its successful working. Yet, the STF has only arrested
middlemen and impersonators from other states like Uttar
Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi.
No less shocking and intriguing is the sequence of events
as it has occurred since end2014 until now. On 28 April, a
pharmacist Vijay Singh, described as a key accused, was found
dead in a BJP MLAs (member of legislative assembly) lodge in
Chhattisgarh. Another whistle-blower Prashant Pandey, who
approached the Delhi High Court for protection recently,
claimed that at least seven accused and witnesses in the scam
have died until now (Vijay Singh is the eighth). On 25 March,
the son of the Madhya Pradesh Governor, Shailesh Yadav was
found dead in a Lucknow bungalow. He too was an accused in
the scam. In fact, Governor Ram Naresh Yadav was himself an
accused in the scam and had to approach the MP High Court to
get his name struck off the first information report. Earlier this
year, Pandey had provided evidence, which Congress leaders
had publicised, linking Chief Minister Chouhan to the scam,
only to have it declared a forged document by the SIT. To make
the whole issue even murkier, the Congress claimed that
Chouhans name had been replaced with that of his BJP rival
Uma Bharti and ex-minister Laxmikant Sharma. Sharma had
resigned from the party after he was remanded to police
custody in 2014.
The media, as is its wont, has been content to focus on the
political one-upmanship between the Congress and the BJP.
The former is desperate to regain lost ground in the state and
the latter to shake off any taint from the scam. Little attention
has been paid to delving into how such a scam could run so
efficiently without the higher-ups in the state being aware
of it or even to the effect it would have on public services.
There have been reports of the young men and women who
paid the bribes being interrogated harshly. Are these young
people the accused or victims of a system that is manipulated
so cynically and fearlessly? The investigation must pin down
the real masterminds behind the Vyapam scam and punish
them. Public faith has been chipped away by too many inquiries
that take decades and wind up in acquittals due to lack of evidence and inordinate delays.
may 16, 2015

vol l no 20

EPW

Economic & Political Weekly