Vyapam - A Scam For The Ages

Saturday, July 25, 2015 Politics

The story behind the biggest scam India has ever witnessed

The word 'scam' has almost become synonymous to Indian politicians over the past few years. None more so than during the Congress Party led UPA government's second term at the helm.  Some of the numbers that were being thrown around involving the scams were quite astonishing. It resonated across the nation, which paved way for the BJP to utterly decimate the Congress Party and win the elections with an overwhelming majority. Despite their dominance and their thoroughly convincing victory, the BJP were not short of critics. The whole religion mixing with politics scenario never sat well with many. But the thing that concerned the critics the most was that the new cabinet had people with criminal records and strangely enough, people who were involved in large corruption scandals or 'scams'. So in a way it contradicted the BJP's 'anti-corruption' stance during their election campaigns.

Now almost a year on after coming into power, the scams and scandals are hitting the new government hard. The LalitGate and the Vyapam Scam have had the big boys twitching in their seats. The usually very vocal Prime Minister has decided to shy away and keep his silence just like his predecessor. Strangely enough, when he did decide to speak up about a national issue, it backfired massively. He asked fathers to take 'selfies' with their daughters, which he thought would help the cause of women empowerment. The 'how' of this master plan had the rationales scratching their heads.


Of all the scams that India have gone through over the years (and India is not short in that regard), nothing is quite more shocking or bone chilling than the Vyapam (Vyavasaik Pariksha Mandal) Scam. Vyapam is a selection process for government colleges and jobs conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB). The scam involves manipulating the selection process via cheating the exams, rigging the results, leaking the answer key, using false identities etc.  It is without question the biggest scandal republic India has witnessed.

In the case of the Vyapam scam, it's not the question of how much money is involved; but the number of people involved, the number of years that it has been going on for under the radar, and the number of people murdered to cover it up. Yes, you read it right, 'murdered'. Just like one of those British gangster movies. As per some reports more than 40 have been killed since investigations were reopened by the Supreme Court two years ago, and nearly 2,000 have been arrested.

 


The first reported case of the Vyapam Scam, date as far back as 1995. Disappearances of key witnesses, loss of evidence and untimely transfers of people involved in investigations have kept the scam under wraps for nearly 2 decades. If it weren't for one gruesome incident, this might've gone on for a few more years. A medical student named Namrata Damor was found dead on a railway track, and it was later confirmed that she was enrolled to one of the government medical colleges, and just like many others she too had illegally gained admission to the college. Initial autopsy confirmed that it was murder, and the doctors found evidence that she was dragged on to the tracks after she was strangled to death. A few months later, very bizarrely enough, the police closed the case as suicide. This wasn’t the first time such an obvious cover-up had gone unnoticed in India. But in 2015 a journalist Akshay Singh, who was investigating Namrata Damor's death, died mysteriously immediately after interviewing the victim's parents. His death was followed by the deaths of a few others in a space of few days, who were connected to the scam. The circumstances of their deaths were very suspicious and made bit of a stir. One of them was a medical college dean. Since then, over 30 people have died from road accidents, suicides, poisoning etc., most of the deceased were middlemen.


In the wake of all this, the Supreme Court assigned a Special Investigative Task Force (SITF) to get a clear picture of what was really happening in Madhya Pradesh. The SITF reopened the previously closed cases, and discovered that most of the cases closed as suicides by the local police in Madhya Pradesh were actually murders including the Namrata Damor case. Whistleblowers of the scam have been living in fear each day. When some of them demanded police protection, they were asked to pay ₹50,000 a month by the High Court!  That was nearly twice as much as most of them earned a month.

It was reported that over 1,000 medical students have been illegally granted seats in colleges since 2009. The worrying thing here is that, these students (who've attained admissions illegally) will be asked to save lives of patients one day; which might actually be more dangerous than the scam itself. Further investigations revealed that the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivaraj Singh Chouhan and Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram Naresh Yadav might be involved in the scams. The network is so large and powerful that the whole scam is reportedly worth 10,000 crores (₹1,00,000,000,000)! The people involved include top level bureaucrats, businessmen, politicians and ministers.


The scale, magnitude and sheer size of this illegal network is jaw-dropping to say the least. But the BJP led Madhya Pradesh government is yet to take action on ministers accused in the scam. Some of the accused are senior BJP and RSS leaders as well. So it comes to no surprise that the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh wasn't pleased with the idea of the CBI taking over the case. Recent history has taught us that the Indian Judiciary has a different set of laws or rather 'no laws' for politicians and the über rich. So even if hard evidence is leveled against them, the ones at the very top of this network's pyramid will walk free. That is the bitter truth. Our country despite being one of the fastest growing nations in the world over past couple decades, is in a very sad state of affairs.


The Vyapam Scam has hit the headlines at the worst possible time for the BJP. But from a different perspective it may have come up at the right time as far as some of their top leaders are concerned. This has distracted the media from the 'Lalit Modi row'; in terms of short term goals it may turn out be a quick fix for Narendra Modi's cabinet to divert the media's attention to the lesser BJP leaders. Luckily for the Central Government though, there is no global recession like in 2008, and the sharp decline in oil prices has kept the economy stable. If the oil prices were to rise back up unexpectedly, we would have a major economic crisis on our hands. It would've been too much for the government to handle. Truth be told it's very unlikely that Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (a lawyer by trade), would be able to steady the ship like Dr.Manmohan Singh and P. Chindambaram (both pioneers in economics) did in 2008. Then again, the UPA government has none but themselves to blame for all the corruption scandals they were embroiled in while they were in power. The new leaders of our country should try to learn from the mistakes made by their predecessors and make a strong stance against corruption rather making excuses like "they were also doing it".  Otherwise the corruption scandals and their other questionable antics will eat them up from the inside. At the end of the day India is still a democracy.


written by
Ryan Gomez




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