From punishment postings and police harassment to threat calls and mysterious car crashes, whistleblowers in a widening exam-rigging scandal in Madhya Pradesh say they are under relentless pressure to back down in a scam that threatens the career of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The scandal, in which thousands of people got jobs or entry into medical schools from systematic rigging of exams by organised gangs as well as people close to Chouhan, has got murkier with the mysterious deaths of at least 40 people linked to the fraud.
Among the first to blow the lid off the scandal was Dr Anand Rai, who was recently transferred to Dhar from Indore on the excuse that all doctors with the health department were being repatriated to their parent hospital. His wife, who is also a doctor, had already been transferred to Ujjain.
Earlier this week, the BJP came out with a booklet that called Rai and another whistleblower Prashant Pandey “criminals”, although they said they had been acquitted in a couple of minor cases during their college life.
“I was given an offer that I may be retained in Indore … if I dissociate myself with the Vyapam scam but I told them there could be no bargaining on corruption,” Dr Rai told Hindustan Times.
“Politicians, officials known to me would often tell me not to get entangled in the fight with high and mighty or else anything could happen. You may end up being killed or languishing in jail.”
But state minister for health Narottam Mishra denied the government was persecuting Dr Rai.
“There is no question of targeting anyone. As far as Dr Rai’s transfer is concerned, everyone who was on attachment (to another hospital) has been sent to their original place of posting,” he said.
Vyapam whistleblowers Ashish Chaturvedi and Ajay Dubey agree with Dr Rai on the ingenious dissuasion tactics they say are being employed by the police, officials and politicians to make them stop pursuing the case.
In May, Pandey’s car was rear-ended by another vehicle, an accident that he says was actually an attempt on his life. His wife was in the car at the time. A senior police officer in Indore then threatened him that he would be implicated in a case of cow slaughter, a crime in Madhya Pradesh. Pandey supplied crucial information stored in official computers on how the exams were rigged.
But the BJP denies any arm-twisting.
“Our government wants to see everyone safe and sound irrespective of his stature or status,” state party spokesperson Vishwas Sarang said.
At 23, Chaturvedi is the youngest of the whistleblowers who says he has already survived 14 attempts on his life.
“Once an officer said so many cases could be slapped on me that I would remain in jail for rest of my life”, he said.
Read:SC gives CBI a week to decide on takeover of probe in Vyapam scam