Editor’s note: This story was first published on 30 June, 2015. In the wake of two more deaths on Saturday and Sunday, we have republished an updated version.

The Vyapam scam or the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) Scam is known as one of India’s most notorious scam for one main reason – more than 40 people associated with the scam have died since the story broke in 2013. The deaths include accused and witnesses as well as a journalist who was investigating the story, and have largely been under mysterious circumstances.

Two more people have died in strange circumstances in the last two days. One was the Dean of a Jabalpur Medical College Dr Arun Sharma and the other is Aaj Tak journalist Akshay Singh, who was covering the scam.

With the increasing death toll and even as the opposition parties have demanded a CBI probe into the matter — claiming that an SIT probe was not enough — Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan defended his government for not initiating a probe by the Central Bureau Investigation by saying the High Court had ruled against a probe by the agency. Chouhan said his government was writing to HC-constituted SIT probing Vyapam scam to investigate death of scribe Singh.

Vyapam logo. Image Courtesy: www.vyapam.nic.inVyapam logo. Image Courtesy: www.vyapam.nic.in

Vyapam logo. Image Courtesy: www.vyapam.nic.in

While investigations are underway, here is all you need to know about the Vyapam Scam and its mysterious deaths.

What is the Vyapam Scam?

The scam was all about the manipulation in the selection process for government colleges and jobs conducted by the Madhya Pradesh professional examination board (MPPEB) or Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal (Vyapam). It involved the impersonation of candidates, rampant copying, blank answer sheets and fake marks.

What did the investigation reveal?

Earlier this year, a report by the high court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) probing the MPPEB (Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board) scam revealed that another 32 people, all aged between 25 and 30, have died under suspicious circumstances since the probe began in 2012, according to a report by the Times of India. Initial reports suggested that about eight accused had died in strange circumstances by May 2915. However, a report by the high court-appointed special investigation team (SIT) probing the scam revealed that another 32 people, all aged between 25 and 30, have died under suspicious circumstances since the probe began in 2012, continues the report.

Which are the most mysterious deaths?

1. Akshay Singh —  Singh, a journalist with TV channel Aaj Tak, was investigating the Vyapam Scam in Madhya Pradesh when he died mysteriously. His death occurred on Saturday after interviewer parents of Namrata Damor, the girl who had been found dead near railway tracks after her name figured in the infamous scam.  Reports suggest that after the interview, Singh waited to get some papers photocopied when he suddenly started frothing at the mouth. He was rushed to the hospital but doctors failed to revive him. According to the statement released by The India Today Group where he was employed, the cause of his sudden demise is not yet clear.

2. Arun Sharma — Sharma was the dean of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Medical College in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. He was suspected of having links to some accused in the Vyapam scam, was found dead under mysterious circumstances at a hotel in south-west Delhi’s Dwarka on 6 July. The body of Sharma was found in his room at the hotel. Police said when the door was not opened after repeated knocks, the staff entered the room using a duplicate key and found his body. According to the police, a bottle of alcohol, almost empty, was found in the room. Sharma had also vomited and there were signs of heavy drinking.

3. Shailesh Yadav – He was the son of MP Governor Ram Naresh Yadav and was one of the accused in the Vyapam scam. He was found dead at his residence, the Governor’s bungalow in Lucknow in March 2015. According to an Indian Express report, the 50-year old’s family members claimed that he was was diabetic and died of brain haemorrhage. They did not share the exact time of his death, maintaining that they came to know about it around 6 am when he did not get up. However, a Times of India report mentions that he died due to poisoning. But the post-mortem report says that cause of death could not be ascertained.

4. Vijay Singh – Another accused, Singh was found dead under mysterious circumstances at a lodge in Chhattisgarh’s Kanker district in April 2015. He was a resident of Rewa in Madhya Pradesh and posted as pharmacist at Shajapur District Jail. Singh had been under suspension after the Special Task Force (STF) arrested him in three cases related the MPPEB scam. but was later cleared in one case. He had been released on bail in February this year. Singh’s brother had demanded a probe into the mysterious death. “Vijay Singh’s body was found at a local lodge in Kanker on 28 April. No poisonous substance was found inside the room,” his brother Abhay Singh, a government school teacher, had told PTI.

5. Namrata Damor – Damor was a student of MGM Medical college, Indore, was found near railway tracks at Kayta village in Ujjain on 7 January, 2012, a week after she was reported mysteriously missing from the college hostel, according to a Times of India report. She was in the list of suspects who cleared PMT-2010 using unfair means.

6. Dr DK Sakalley – He was the dean of Netaji Subhashchandra Bose Medical College of Jabalpur and died in July 2014, succumbing to burns during a 30-day medical leave to avoid pressure from students who were sacked for their alleged role in MPPEB scam, says another report by The Times of India.

7. Ramendra Singh Bhadoria – The 30-year old was found hanging at his home in Gwalior a few days after an FIR was registered in January 2015. His family members claimed he was being mentally tortured by those involved in the MPPEB scam to keep quiet. His mother also committed suicide by consuming acid a week later, as per a Times of India report.

8. Narendra Singh Tomar – This death was what brought the Vyapam scam back in the limelight in June 2015 after another accused in the high-profile MPPEB scam died under mysterious circumstances in an Indore jail. The 29-year-old veterinarian complained of chest pain at night and was rushed to Maharaja Yashwant Rao Hospital where he was declared brought dead.

9. Dr Rajendra Arya – The 40-year old died within 24 hours of Tomar’s death at Birla Hospital in Gwalior. He had been on bail for one year, had gone to Kota and was returning when his condition turned critical.

10. Amit Sagar – A student of Mhow Veterinary College, he was found dead under suspicious circumstances in Sheopur district. The incident occurred on 18 February, but his death came to light only on Monday, a day after the deaths of Tomar and Arya in quick succession. Sagar is said to have died of drowning and his body was found floating in a pond, according to a report by India Today.

Other scam accused declared dead in the SIT report among others as per The Times of India are –

11. Anuj Pandey
12. Vikram Singh
13. Arvind Shakya
14. Kuldeep Maravi
15. Anantram Tagore
16. Ashutosh Tiwari
17. Gyan Singh (Bhind)
18. Pramod Sharma (Bhind)
19. Vikas Pandey (Allahabad)
20. Vikas Thakur (Barwani)
21. Shyamveer Singh Yadav
22. Aditya Chaudhary
23. Deepak Jain (Shivpuri)
24. Gyan Singh (Gwalior)
25. Brijesh Rajput (Barwani)
26. Narendra Rajput (Jhansi)
27. Anand Singh Yadav (Fatehpur)
28. Anirudh Uikey (Mandla)
29. Lalit Kumar Pashupatinath Jaiswal
30. Ragvendra Singh (Singrauli)
31. Anand Singh (Barwani)
32. Manish Kumar Samadia (Jhansi)
33. Dinesh Jatav
34. Gyan Singh (Sagar)

Not much is known about the deaths of the other accused except that most of them happened Chambal area covering Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

(With agency inputs)

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The sinister Vyapam Scam: Mysterious death toll keeps increasing in India’s killer scandal