RAKESH DIXIT - Multi-layered (and murderous) Vyapam scandal explained.

NB: RSS patriotism at work. Vande Mataram has been replaced by Dhande Mataram. All is well. They will find some way of declaring all the deaths natural, accidental or a result of suicide. Meanwhile the CBI will track down anti-national NGO's for criticising the patriotic mafia. Let us see what the judiciary does - the SC has already sharply criticised the Madhya Pradesh High Court. What were the Hon'ble HC judges thinking, when they dodged the issue? Why do we have judges at all, gentlemen? Who is destroying the Indian Constitution here? DS

"The clockwork nature of the admission-recruitment racket emboldened the nexus to tweak the system more audaciously. For instance, when the ‘recruitment mafia’ realised that though they could help candidates pass the theory test for police recruitments but could not help them clear the physical test, they got fitness norms diluted. In some cases they even managed to get the fitness test abolished. The bureaucracy was only too willing to help the mafia – for the right price. With the racket growing into almost an industry, a top power broker in Madhya Pradesh, Sudhir Sharma, decided to take control of the PEB’s corrupt empire. Sharma’s rise during the 10 years of the BJP regime had been stupendous. He was a teacher in an RSS-run Saraswati Shishu Mandir. When his close friend, Laxmikant Sharma became mining minister, Sudhir quit his job and joined the mining business. Within years, he emerged as a top notch mining baron.

Leveraging his friendship with Laxmikant Sharma, Sudhir got an associate of his, Pankaj Trivedi appointed as examination controller in the PEB. Trivedi was a lecturer in an Indore college, so his elevation in the PEB raised many eyebrows in bureaucratic circles. One of Pankaj’s brothers, Piyush Trivedi, is the vice chancellor of the state’s only technical university. Their cousin, Sudhanshu Trivedi, is BJP’s national spokesperson, and has been accused of being one of the behind-the-scenes players in the scam. As has been reported by the media, Sudhir Sharma was also close to RSS leaders such as late KS Sudarshan and Suresh Soni. Both the RSS stalwarts are said to have recommended candidates in job tests, although this has since been denied by the STF..."

The key facts are so disturbing as to be without parallel: a scam that covered higher education admissions and government recruitments in one of India’s largest states for several years, with cash worth hundreds of crores of rupees changing hands; 24 officially confirmed ‘unnatural deaths’ of accused persons and suspects including senior officials and the state Governor’s son. Unofficial estimates of deaths vary from 44 to 156, depending on who is making the claim; for every dead suspect, a 100 are either in custody (over 1800 arrests) or on the run (some 600); nearly 200 suspects have filed petitions requesting protection as they fear for their life; bigwigs whose names have been dragged into the spotlight so far include the state Governor, Chief Minister, a national spokesperson of the ruling BJP, and two of the senior most RSS leaders.

No wonder that the Professional Examination Board (PEB) or Vyapam, short for Vyavasik Pariksha Mandal, scam that came to light in July 2013 – one of the most blatant and extensive rigging exercises of its kind ever uncovered in India – is fast acquiring the shades of a macabre crime thriller.

The ‘unnatural’ deaths: In its status report to the Madhya Pradesh High Court on June 26, the Special Task Force (STF) probing the scam stated that 23 accused have died ‘unnatural deaths’. Two days later, one more accused, Narendra Singh Tomar, died mysteriously at Indore Central jail, making it 24 suspicious deaths from a pool of 2,400. In response, the High Court has stated that the decision about investigating these deaths will be taken in consultation with the Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by a former High Court judge, formed by the court to monitor the probe.

It’s useful to note that 24 unnatural deaths is the official figure; the unofficial figure goes up to 44 and could be even higher. Leader of opposition Satyadeo Katare of the Congress claims that as many as 156 persons connected with the scam have died so far. “These 156 dead include accused and suspects, their family members, whistleblowers and witnesses,” he says. However, he has not been able to substantiate his claims or furnish a list of those he claims are dead.

A majority of those who died are from the Chambal region straddling Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. Most of the dead were in the age group of 25-30. They were either students, who had fraudulently secured admission to medical colleges after paying hefty sums to touts of the PEB’s bosses, or job aspirants who benefited from the manipulation of recruitment tests. For quite some time, only four unnatural deaths relating to the scam had been reported in the media. The most high-profile of these was that of Shailesh Yadav, son of Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram Naresh Yadav. The Governor was also named as an accused in a recruitment rigging matter in February this year but the High Court gave him relief a month later, saying that he enjoys constitutional immunity as long as he is in office...

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