In its manifesto for the Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, last year, the Congress promised constitution of a Jana Aayog (People’s Commission) comprising legal experts, educationists and others to investigate the scams of the BJP government that occurred between 2008 and 2018 including the Vyapam scam. It was also promised that after completion of the investigation, the government would move the courts and strive for getting the culprits punished.
It is nearly seven months that the Congress government, with Kamal Nath as Chief Minister, has been in place. Not only there is no talk of setting up any Jana Aayog to probe the numerous scams of the BJP regime, but the government has made a move to sweep under the carpet the Vyapam scam, the biggest of the BJP regime.
Vyapam is acronym of Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal (or Professional Examinations Board). The Kamal Nath government has decided to replace Vyapam with Rajya Karmachari Chayan Aayog (or State Staff Selection Commission), apparently to erase from the public memory the name Vyapam which is becoming a source of embarrassment to the Congress government also because of its failure to set up the promised Jana Aayog to investigate this mega scam.
Vyapam scam has destroyed careers of thousands of brilliant boys and girls in Madhya Pradesh. Uma Bharti described the Vyapam scam as bigger than Lalu Prasad Yadav’s fodder scam. In fact, the Vyapam scam is the first of its kind in the country and cannot be compared to any other. The modus operandi used in the scam was somewhat like this: the candidates for PMT who had done well will be disqualified and other names (either on the recommendation of some important person or against payment of a heavy amount) will be shown as having qualified, and even put in merit list, for admission to medical colleges. After investigation, the STF had come across names of doctors working in hospitals who had not even appeared in PMT but had been declared qualified against payment of hefty sums. The young boys and girls who had worked hard for their tests were just at a loss to understand what went wrong.
Vyapam or Professional Examinations Board (PEB) was constituted, initially, to conduct tests for admission to medical colleges (PMT). Later on, the tests for admission to engineering colleges (PET) were also entrusted to the Vyapam. In 2007, Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan entrusted to Vyapam the responsibility of making recruitment for some government departments, public sector undertakings and semi-government bodies also, which was till then handled by the State Public Service Commission. The avenues of earning money and obliging important persons thus widened further with the recruitment being made for various departments such as the police, education, transport, civil supplies and weight and measures.
Following a hue and cry inside and outside the Assembly, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan constituted a Special Task Force (STF) of Madhya Pradesh police to look into the matter. Following a plethora of petitions in the Madhya Pradesh High Court, the Chief Justice decided to monitor the progress of the STF investigation of the Vyapam scam. Petitioners were dissatisfied with the working of the STF. Former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, and some others, moved the High Court with the prayer that the case be entrusted to the CBI. Rejecting the repeated petitions for handing over the case to the CBI, the High Court eventually constituted a three-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) with (retired) Justice Chandresh Bhushan as its chairman. Its members were retired (1975 batch) IPS officer Vijay Raman and I T expert L M Reddy.
But this, too, failed to satisfy the petitioners. A High Court division bench of Chief Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice Alok Aradhe monitored the “progress” in STF investigation in camera with directions not to reveal anything discussed to the public. Besides, it came to public knowledge only several months later that the High Court bench was monitoring investigation of only in respect of PMT and Pre-PG (medical) admission scams out of the eight Vyapam-related scams. Still more surprising was the High Court order that the SIT constituted by the High Court itself would not investigate but only work as a watchdog. This order came after Digvijaya Singh submitted to SIT the allegedly tampered excel sheets and SIT chairman (Justice) Chandresh Bhushan hinted that SIT may entrust to an agency other than STF the task of verifying if the excel sheets had really been tampered with. The High Court directed the SIT to hand over whatever evidence it gets to STF and not to start its own investigation.
While Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his wife Sadhna Singh and their relatives and close acquaintances were said to be the main beneficiaries of the scam, Congress leaders including Digvijaya Singh, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kamal Nath, Suresh Pachouri and Vivek Tankha made only occasional noises instead of pursuing the scam investigation with any seriousness. The real intention of the Congress leaders has now become clear, with the Kamal Nath government deciding not to start the promised investigation of the scam but push the Vyapam scam under the carpet.
Then MP High Court Chief Justice A M Khanwilkar was, it appears now, trying only to derail the investigation to protect the actual culprits behind the scam.
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