There is something really sinister and rotten in the state of Madhya Pradesh. Nearly 50 persons connected to an ongoing probe into a mammoth scam have died, half of them under suspicious circumstances.

People with no history of illness are suddenly collapsing and dying; road accidents and suicides have turned major killers of young men and women connected to the scam. Everyday there is a new death, giving rise to suspicions of a macabre conspiracy.

Namrata Damor, a student accused of benefitting from the Vyapam scam, leaves her home in 2012. A few days later, her body is found hundreds of miles away on railway tracks in Ujjain. Three years later, TV journalist Akshay Singh, who is probing her death, dies within seconds of interviewing her parents.

A day later (July 5, 2015), Arun Sharma, the 64-year-old dean of a medical college in Jabalpur, is found dead in a Delhi hotel, while on his way to Agartala from Delhi as part of an inspection team of Medical Council of India. Just a year ago, his predecessor DK Sakalle, who was heading the probe into fraudulent admissions in the Jabalpur College, had died of burn injuries.

In addition, 12 persons have died suddenly of unexplained illness/cause; ten others have succumbed to accidents. Naturally, there is palpable fear among families of many other persons linked to the scam.

Representational image. Image courtesy: Vyapam websiteRepresentational image. Image courtesy: Vyapam website

Representational image. Image courtesy: Vyapam website

Vyapam is the Mama of all scandals

The stakes are high. A lot of reputations and careers are at stake. Vyapam is the Mama of all scandals in post-Independence India. And this isn’t just because it has unfolded under the watch of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who loves to call himself the Mama (uncle) of every youngster in Madhya Pradesh.

It is enormous, unprecedented in magnitude and scale. It has touched the life of almost every MP student who passed out of school between 2008 and 2013. It has affected the fortune of almost every youngster who competed for government jobs in the state during Chouhan’s previous tenure (2008-2013), if not earlier. It would be difficult to find too many families in MP who are not victims of the scam.

What exactly is the Vyapam scam?

Till 2014, the MP government had a special body (Professional Examination Board or Vyapam) for conducting all entrance exams for professional colleges (medical, dental, engineering etc) and recruitments tests for government jobs (teachers, sub-inspectors, transport officers, forest staff etc) in the state. According to a ballpark figure nearly 39 lakh students and job aspirants appeared for exams conducted by Vyapam between 2008 and 2013.
Most of these exams were rigged and the aspirants cheated. A network of middlemen, Vyapam staff and politicians manipulated the results to give admissions and jobs to those who either paid for them or came with recommendations from influential people.

People at every level were part of the chain. Recommendations came from every possible source, including ministers, MLAs, BJP leaders, Sangh Parivar and even the Raj Bhawan staff. The opposition Congress has alleged that several people close to Chouhan, including his wife Sadhna Singh, made recommendations for admissions and recruitments. Chouhan has denied the allegations and filed defamation suits against Congress leaders.

The Chouhan government tried several other tricks to silence critics while the scam fire was raging. In one egregious incident, it almost blacklisted an English daily for running an acerbic profile of his wife and issued eviction notice to the author for vacating the government accommodation allotted to him. (In MP, incidentally, journalists live in houses rented to them at throwaway prices in posh localities. The practice has been prevalent for decades but nobody has pointed at the conflict of interest or the government’s efforts to favour scribes).

The scam burst into public domain when lists of beneficiaries and their patrons maintained by Sudhir Sharma became public before the 2013 Assembly elections. As a result of a special investigation team (SIT) probe that followed under the high court, hundreds of people are in jail. These include former education minister Laxmikant Sharma, his OSD and alleged middleman Sudhir Sharma, exam controller Pankaj Trivedi and Anand Mahindra, the chief systems analyst of Vyapam. Thousands of students have been thrown out of colleges and put behind bars.

In 2014, when former education minister Laxmikant was arrested by the SIT, there was jubilation in the Congress camp, its essence captured by the cryptic message passed between them: Dadhi (beard) gone, saree (a high-profile woman) is next. It was believed that the minister will sing like a canary and name several other beneficiaries of the scam. But the probe hit a dead end after the arrest of the minister and his OSD, giving rise to allegations that a massive cover-up is on to shield people at higher levels.

Could this spate of unexplained deaths just be coincidence or part of a sinister plot to wipe out witnesses and key players? Nobody knows the answer yet. But the plot of the Mama of all scams has turned really sinister.

Originally posted here – 

Two more Vyapam scam deaths: Coincidence or plot to wipe out witnesses?