45 Deaths and Counting, The Curious Case of Vyapam Scam

What is Vyapam Scam?

The Vyapam scam is an admission and recruitment scam involving politicians, senior officials and businessmen in  Madhya Pradesh. Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB), popularly known by its Hindi acronym “Vyapam” (Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal), is a government body responsible for conducting several entrance tests in the state. These entrance exams are used for recruitment to government jobs and for admissions to educational institutes in the state. The scam involved a collusion of undeserving candidates, who bribed politicians and MPPEB officials through middlemen, to get high ranks in these entrance tests.

How it started and came to light?

Cases of irregularities in these entrance tests had been reported since the mid-1990s, and the first FIR was filed in 2000. However, until 2009, such cases were not thought to be part of an organized ring. When major complaints surfaced in the pre-medical test (PMT) in 2009, the state government established a committee to investigate the matter. The commitee released its report in 2011, and over a hundred people were arrested by the police. A Special Task Force (STF) was established in 2012.

Vyapam Scam. Image Credits : https://goo.gl/xW466m

Vyapam Scam. Image Credits : https://goo.gl/xW466m

Cheating Tricks Involved

According to the whistle-blower exposing the scam, the following tricks were used by those involved in the scam:

1. Impersonation – The admit card of the candidate was used to execute the trick. All the information of the candidate remained intact except the photograph. Candidate’s photograph was replaced by that of the impersonator and after the exam, it was changed back to the original. All this was done in collusion with the corrupt Board officials. The impersonator was always some brilliant student and used to get hefty amount to secure the seat.

2. Engine and Bogie System – A person was strategically seated adjacent to the candidate. The person let them copy from his sheet or exchanged the sheet at the end of the exam.

3. OMR Sheets – The select candidates were asked to leave their answer sheets blank. They were randomly given high percentages after the exam. Concerned authorities of the Board then filed an RTI demanding to view those answer sheets. They then filled in the answers in the OMR booklet according to the marks they have already been given. This was done so that if someone were to ever check those answer sheets, there would not be any loopholes that could give them away.

A report by the Madhya Pradesh Local Fund Audit office for 2007-08 found several financial and administrative irregularities in MPPEB, including unauthorized disposal of application forms. It was suspected that the application forms were being destroyed so that they could not be compared to exam admit cards and other records. In 2009, fresh complaints of irregularities in the pre-medical test (PMT) surfaced. In July 2011, MPPEB monitored 145 suspects during the Pre-Medical Test (PMT). Most of the suspects did not turn up, but 8 were caught for impersonating others. This included Kanpur-based Satyendra Varma, who had accepted ₹ 4 lakh to appear in place of Ashish Yadav, in Indore. The massive scale of the Vyapam scam came to light in 2013. On the night of 6-7 July, the Indore police arrested 20 people from various city hotels. These people, 17 of whom were from Uttar Pradesh, had come to impersonate local candidates in the PMT exam scheduled on 7 July 2013. The impersonators had been promised sums ranging from ₹50,000 to ₹ 1,00,000.  Indore police found out that an organized racket headed by Jagdish Sagar was involved in the scam.

Politicians and Bureaucrats arrested 

Laxmikant Sharma, ex-Education Minister (M.P)

Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) leader Laxmikant Sharma was the in-charge of MPPEB in his capacity as the state’s Technical Education Minister. He was initially arrested for his involvement in the contractual teachers recruitment scam, based on the information recovered from the Excel sheet maintained by Vyapam Scam kingpin Nitin Mahendra, a System Analyst in Vyapam who is accused to have received bribes worth ₹10 crores . Later, he was also booked for irregularities in the constables recruitment examinations.

O.P. Shukla

He was posted as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) with then Technical Education Minister Laxmikant Sharma. Soon after the investigations gained momentum, he went underground and surrendered two months after the investigation team released a lookout notice for him. He allegedly took 8.5 million (85 lakhs) Rupees from the candidates for clearing the medical entrance test.

Sudhir Sharma

A mining businessman, Sudhir Sharma was once an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) of the education minister Laxmikant Sharma. He was involved in police constable recruitment examination scam of 2012. After absconding initially, he surrendered to the STF in December 2013.

Numerous death threats have been made against the whistle-blowers. Anand Rai, an Indore based doctor filed a PIL which started the initial investigation. He, among others has received numerous threatening calls along with assassination attempts on his life. Two other prominent whistle-blowers who have helped unearth this scam are Ashish Chaturvedi and Prashant Pandey betterly known as Mr. X, the later of which has made serious allegations at Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Recent news shows that out of the 2,000 people arrested for the scam, two-thirds are students or parents. So far around 45 people have died with 4 deaths in the last few days which includes students, middlemen, journalists, police personnel and whistle-blowers.

What Next?

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