The word Vyapam (which is just a Hindi acronym) has suddenly hogged newspaper headlines due to its sinister and awesome connection with untural and unexpected deaths. In Madhya Pradesh, the task of conducting qualifying examitions for professiol courses (such as medicine and engineering) and government jobs is entrusted to a State board called Vyavasik Pariksha Mandal, shortened to the acronym Vyapam. And while there have been two untural deaths during the last four days of persons who turned whistleblowers of what is called the Vyapam scam, the number of lives the scam has taken so far is anything between 23 and 45. According to reports, in the year 2007, the mes of some successful aspirants to medical courses were replaced in computerized records with those of candidates who had paid hefty bribes (ranging from Rs 15 lakh to Rs 50 lakh depending on the course) per candidate. The scam came to light only six years later in July 2013, when eight impersotors were arrested for appearing at a pre-medical test in Indore in place of the registered candidates. The arrests of the impersotors was the outcome of a tip-off from a whistleblower, And Rai. The extent and magnitude of the scam can be readily assessed from the fact that very detailed modus operandi was evolved for streamlining the impersotion process and that the scam extended to thousands of cases. Although the admissions swindle was traced in 2007, the BJP-led government did very little till 2013. In September that year, Controller of Examitions Pankaj Trivedi was arrested. So far, 1,800 people have been arrested. But such arrests have been confined to touts and students, with the big fish remaining untouched. And they have not been idle. Whistleblowers and accused started disappearing since 2012. Freak road accidents and killings by other means went on ubated. In 2013, D.K.Sakalle, former Dean of Jabalpur Medical College, was found dead with burn marks at his residence. Sailesh Yadav, an accused and son of Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram resh Yadav, was found dead in mysterious circumstances at his Lucknow residence. On Sunday, Dr Arun Sharma, Dean of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Medical College of Jabalpur, investigating an aspect of the Vyapam scam, was found dead in a Delhi hotel. He had recently handed over 200 pages of documents to a special investigation team that is probing the case under the monitoring of the high court. A day earlier, 38-year-old Akshay Singh, an investigative jourlist with the Aaj Tak TV news channel died frothing at the mouth in Jhabua soon after speaking to the parents of a girl found dead after her me figured in the scam. Expressing surprise at the shock and concern at the death of Akshay Singh, Madhya Pradesh minister Kailash Vijayvargiya wanted to know whether the jourlist deserved the same importance as ministers! Later on, he said that he had been joking! Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan had earlier ruled out a CBI inquiry after the police had denied foul play. However, after the news of Dr Arun Sharma’s death broke on Sunday, he did a volte-face to say that he would have no objections if the high court ordered an inquiry by any Central agency.
The killer Vyapam scam is probably much worse and far more sinister than any scam the tion has had to deal with. Apart from the astronomical sums and the middlemen, bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen involved, it is the kind of scam that threatens to liquidate permanently the principle of merit and the virtue of competition to the extent punishing meritorious students with death. This is one scam that the BJP government cannot afford to take lightly regardless of the power of the people involved. It is a scam that must be seen to its logical liquidation with the most Draconian punishment given to the key culprits so that no vested interest will hereafter dare to destroy the very flower of our youth, intellect and brilliance. Vyapam is attempting to destroy what is best in India—its human resource—for persol gain, and the punishment must be appropriate to the crime and deterrent enough for all times to come. What is very astonishing, however, is the total silence of Prime Minister rendra Modi and the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh over such a major issue.