The Vyapam Tragedy: An Insight Into The Stained Politics In India

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Imagine yourself in an Operation Theatre, the  doctor facing you, literally holding your life in his hands, and asking you where  to connect a specific nerve? Well, the prospect sure presents a scary picture, doesn’t it? Doctors have often times being equated with God with people reposing so much faith in them  but with the present situation of the admissions in medical colleges in India, the life of a vast majority of persons may be said to be at risk, , being treated at the hands of  unqualified students and future doctors. This is why the incident of the Madhya Pradesh Pre Medical Test (MP PMT), the exams conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Boards (MPPEB), popularly known as the Vyapam Scam, becomes of utmost relevance, unraveling the organized racket of rigging of examinations.   The shocking episode, wherein by the various acts of impersonation of the examinee, changing of OMR sheets etc., such non deserving and unqualified students,  unfit for this noble calling were granted admissions, while jeopardizing the future of truly deserving candidates, toiling hard to realize their dreams has taken the nation by a storm. The Vyapam (Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal) Scam,  a scam named after its governing body that takes care of conducting of all admissions and recruitments in the state of Madhya Pradesh has been continuously in the headlines, to the utter dismay of the general public at large

The MPPEB, which was set up in 1982, has been conducting exams for government jobs and education entrances ever since, having within its ambit  the holding of the MP PMT tests.

The scam came to light on the revelations by Mr. Anand Rai in 2009, even though the irregularities in the procedure, and the results could be traced way back to 2000-2001. However, it was only in the year  2007 that the issue  came to light and was noticed by others.  By 2013, the gaffe was blown. This may be credited to the initiative taken by Mr. Anand Rai, who started keeping a track of  the fake admissions and the emerging fake doctors. It was found that there were around 140 such students in the year 2000-2002, rising to 850 in 2009, and still coming up to a staggering 700 plus in 2013. The issue was thereafter raised in the Legislative Assembly in the State. Mr. Rai was the first person to file an RTI application for obtaining more information, ensuring transparency. The fake admissions gained momentum during the period 2009-2013 and were majorly in the PMT examination. They came to light in July 2013, when about eight impersonators were found taking the test in true Bollywood Munna Bhai style. The crime branch filed an FIR and arrested 20 people  for impersonation. A list containing the names of 317 students, to be granted admissions in this hoax manner, was retrieved from Dr. Jagdish Sagar, the alleged kingpin of the racket. A Special Task Force (STF) was constituted by the State Government to look into the issue while a Special Investigating Team (SIT) was also constituted by the Madhya Pradesh High Court for the same purposes. . The STF, constituted under the Government of Shivraj Singh Chauhan (Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh), found itself in the midst of controversy and fingers came to be raised at the CM as well since the STF’s confidential reports were prepared by the CM, making the same biased towards the government. In 2011 Shivraj Singh invested the matter and submitted the report. In the same year, over a 100 people were arrested and several students’ admissions stood cancelled. In 2013, an astounding number of 2000 persons stood accused, including the officials from the examination controller, system analysts; state PMT’s examination in-charge, candidates as well as their parents.

Irregularities of this stature and nature have not only questioned the examination system and the procedure, but have also put forth a big question mark on the authorities of the state and the government, who hold the responsibility and confidence of millions of students and their parents.  Along with that, one shudders to think the possible fate of the patients, whose lives  rest in the hands of such doctors.

In April, 2014, a PIL was filed in Madhya Pradesh High Court, demanding a CBI enquiry but the Court struck down the  PIL on the basis of it being ‘devoid of merit’. Subsequently in July, 2014, the High Court of MP enquired and raised the issue of non apprehension of the accused persons  subsequent to which, former Technical Education Minister, Mr. Laxmikant Sharma was arrested.  In November 2014, Digvijay Singh, General Secretary, All India Congress Committee, filed a petition in the Supreme Court to transfer this case to the CBI as the STF was shrouded in speculation of conducting unsatisfactory work, but the Supreme Court, instead of transferring the same, on the contrary, lauded the investigation process of the STF and even commended Madhya Pradesh Government for taking steps in strengthening the investigation process.

Eventually the STF got hold of the evidence against the Governor of Madhya Pradesh, Mr. Ram Naresh Yadav, who had unsuccessfullycontested the general elections on behalf of the Indian National Congress in 2004 from the constituency of Azamgarh.. The Governor came to be charged with criminal conspiracy and interference  in the MPPEB forest guard recruitment exams, however, he had a petition filed for the stay on arrest, which was successful. After a few days, his son was found dead.

Gradually, a series of arrests ensued and by June, over 2000 people came to be arrested in connection with the Vyapam scam. The list included the top most  position holders  from major parties like the BJP and the Congress. The most alarming fact about the scam is the death of 48 persons, all related to the scam in some way or the other, be it the accused, the convicts, the journalists covering these events and the investigation officers. Mr. Anand Rai, the whistleblower is said to have stated that about 10 deaths have occurred under mysterious circumstances and might be in relation to the scam, further calling for a proper investigation in the case.

The chain of these events gives rise to many questions which are in urgent need of answers – The foremost question is pertaining to the mysterious deaths leading to the other vital question of the kind of people involved in the scam, who probably enjoy so much clout as to ensure the permanent silencing of witnesses and accused persons alike.  The events in the aftermath of the unraveling of this scam indicate that some high profile actors have their claims at stake and they are taking some extreme measures to protect their own interests. The state’s power has emerged to be utterly ineffective and rotten in the face of the continuous deaths of prime accused and witnesses alike. The state has become so weak, that individuals, are able to blatantly ignore the law and suborn the system. The line separating state actors from criminals now remains blurred.

The MP government has finally knocked at the door of the Supreme Court to ensure that an investigation at the hands of CBI, is undertaken pertaining to the deaths of 48 people which the Supreme Court has accepted.

On a concluding note, one must ask as to whether blaming a political party for a scam is the most appropriate way of resolving the issue at hand.  What must be considered is that this is not merely a political issue wherein the Government and the Opposition are constantly engaged in mudslinging, rather a serious concern involving the future of those entangled in these unknown political shackles. What can be learnt as a cruel lesson from this scam is the dire need for a reality check, a rigorous  introspection into our political and administrative system which is responsible for the country’s functioning.

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