The Vyapam scam claimed another victim with Arun Sharma, Dean of the Jabalpur-based Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Medical College, being found dead in a Delhi hotel. He was said to be compiling a list of students who gained admission illegally. Journalist Akshay Singh, who died in Madhya Pradesh while covering the Vyapam scam, was cremated in Delhi two days back. He was in Madhya Pradesh to do a story on the recent deaths related to the Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal (Vyapam) scam. Singh was in Meghnagar in Jhabua to talk to the family members of scam-accused Namrata Damor, who herself was found dead under mysterious circumstances. Jhabua Superintendent of Police Abid Khan said that Singh and his two colleagues interviewed the family for around an hour, after which the journalist suddenly fell ill. He was rushed to a hospital where doctors declared him dead.
Notwithstanding pressure over the growing number of unexplained deaths of accused persons and witnesses, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan insisted that he could not recommend a CBI inquiry into the case. He insisted that no other case in the country had been investigated as closely as Vyapam had been till date.
Earlier, Dr. Arun Sharma was found dead in Uppal Hotel in Delhi. His death comes exactly a year after his predecessor, D.K. Sakalley, died of burns at home. The police said that there were no visible injuries on Dr. Sharma’s body and that prima facie it appeared to be a natural death. In Bhopal, the speculation was that it was a case of suicide. As the repercussions of the growing number of unexplained deaths related to the Vyapam scam grow, Chouhan agreed to send the viscera samples of journalist Akshay Singh to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) for examination.
Chouhan now seems to be facing pressure from within his party. His closest rival in Madhya Pradesh, Kailash Vijayvargiya, conducted a large rally in Bhopal apparently to celebrate his appointment as BJP national secretary. Party insiders however, read it as a show of strength and a subtle attempt to increase the pressure on the Chief Minister. Chouhan, who addressed a press conference said that every death in the case was unfortunate and all of them should be probed. He said, he had written to the special investigation team monitoring the probe to look into the sudden death of the journalist. He said, however, that his State government had no role in the investigation of the Vyapam scam since the High Court started monitoring the probe.
The scam involves massive irregularities and corruption in the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) or MP Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal, abbreviated in Hindi as Vyapam. It has been alleged—by the opposition Congress as well as several social activists—that the corrupt officials at the board took money to compromise the examination and recruitment for several professional course including Pre-Engineering, Pre-Medical, MCA, Teaching etc. The current accusations involve mostly of teaching recruitments. So far, developments in this case are that the opposition Congress — led by AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath — has accused persons at the highest levels of government of being involved in the scam, including CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, his wife Sadhna Singh and governor Ram Naresh Yadav. The Congress has alleged that, these influential persons used their power to push for candidates, via several middlemen including mining baron and prime accused Sudhir Sharma, of their choice to be admitted to certain courses or recruited to certain posts.
The whistleblower in the case—an IT expert from Indore—claims to have accessed sensitive information from the computers of the main accused, while assisting the Special Task Force probing the scam. Among other things, he claims to have unearthed an excel-sheet document which contains names of several candidates and the people who recommended them, and SMS exchange between the middlemen and government functionaries. The Congress claims that the STF, in an attempt to shield Mr. Chouhan, had fudged the original excel-sheet and replaced it with another one in which the Mr. Chouhan’s name had been purportedly replaced with entries “CM” and “Uma Bhartiji”.
February was an eventful month in the scam timeline. To start with, Congress leaders openly accused Chouhan and his wife of being involved in the scam. Later, they submitted the “original evidence”, including excel sheet documents, call detail records and a pen drive to the Special Investigation Team which is overseeing the STF probe. Then, the STF named governor Ram Naresh Yadav in its FIR. Also last month, the Delhi High Court granted protection to the whistleblower. The whistleblower submitted all “incriminating evidence” to the Delhi HC.
The Supreme Court asked the STF to finish its probe in four months. There was a shocking development in the case with the death of Shailesh Yadav, MP Governor Ram Naresh Yadav’s son, and accused in the scam, being found dead in his house in Lucknow. There are many deaths and equal amount of controversies. When and where this case meets its end, is still unpredictable.