The Supreme Court today has agreed to club all Vyapam related cases and hear them on Thursday, the 9th of July. The bench of the CJI will hear and decide on pleas about transferring the case to CBI and the investigation to be carried out under the Supreme Court’s direct supervision.
In the background of this, it is strange that the Law Minister of the country Sadananda Gowda is still calling this case “silly and trivial, and nothing the PM of this country needs to comment about”.
Miasma of fear grows
Ironically, a senior cabinet Minister of his Uma Bharati, Union water resources minister and senior BJP leader, has levelled serious allegations against political rival and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
She has gone on record saying she fears for her life now and also the life of the 17 persons who she allegedly has helped (illegally) with jobs and admissions.
Bharti, the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, has been named in the Vyapam because a certain Pandit Leela Dhar Pachauri, who has been accused in the scam, used to stay at the servant quarters of her residence.
Now, Bharti has accused the state police of not subjecting Chouhan to the same scrutiny since his personal assistant, Prem Chand Prasad, has been charge-sheeted in the Vyapam scam for allegedly securing admissions for more than 200 students including his own daughter through nefarious means.
Bharti said that Prasad was far closer to Chouhan than Prasad was to her.
What is Vyapam
Vyapam is acronym for Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal. It was a program begun with much fan fare in MP to help “ordinary citizens” of the state prepare for and get Medical seats. Later, entrance to Engineering courses, government jobs and many such things came under its purview. Then rumours of massive corruption on a very level began coming out… it was believed that a mind boggling 77 lakh candidates have paid bribes as part of the scam.
There are 2,500 accused in the scam; 1,900 are in prison. About 500 are missing, the police has told the court. 55 cases have been filed so far.
This is proving to be a very lethal and sinister scam since it has proved fatal to many people whose number could lie anywhere between 27 to 40. Some accused, some victims, some investigators and now a journalist and 2 Doctors are among the dead. This morning the “suicide” of a female PSI in the state could also be Vyapam related
How needle of suspicion points towards ‘Mama’ Chouhan himself?
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. Chouhan likes to call himself the ‘mama’ (maternal uncle) of every youngster in his state and now some are calling this the “mama of all scams”.
The Chouhan government tried several other tricks to silence critics while the scam fire was raging. In one 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.
The scam, that was already under supposed scrutiny since 2009 itself, burst into limelight shocking everybody 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.
In 2014, former education minister Laxmikant was arrested too, leading to jubilation in the Congress camp. There were cryptic message passed between them: Dadhi (beard) gone, saree (a high-profile woman) is next. It was believed that the minister would sing like a canary and name several other beneficiaries of the scam. But that did not happen: neither the Minister nor his OSD have divulged much. Meanwhile witnesses are dying, literally like flies with no one being apprehended for them.
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.
Despite so many deaths, the Shivraj Chavan government has been steadfastly refusing to have any investigations carried out by CBI citing that a MP Police investigation under directions of High Court is underway. This ensures that matters stay within his jurisdiction. The opposition has been demanding removal of CM, other Ministers and even Governor for some time, but there has been no response from Delhi and the BJP.
Even State Governor Yadav a ‘suspect’
Mr Yadav, who was named Governor of MP in 2011, was named as an accused in the scam last year, but was then removed from the case because his office entitles him to immunity from investigation.
Mr Yadav took office as the Governor of Madhya Pradesh four years ago. The police filed an FIR against him last year alleging that he had tried to ensure candidates of his choice were selected as Forest Guards. However, the Jabalpur High Court had said the Governor is constitutionally entitled to immunity while in office and cannot be investigated for criminal wrong-doing.
Mr Yadav’s son was found dead in Lucknow in March. One of over 1900 people arrested, Shailesh Yadav had allegedly accepted kickbacks in exchange for ensuring government jobs for teachers, but did not manage to deliver.
Finally, the Supreme Court has first agreed to hear a petition asking for the removal of Governor Ram Naresh Yadav to ensure a fair inquiry and now has conceded to hearing all Vyapam related cases, including the one filed by Congress, together on 9th July, Thursday.
– Sunita Mudaliar