And then there were none. The famous Agatha Christie mystery novel could double as an effective tagline for the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board scam, also known as the Vyapam scam from the board’s Hindi acronym, in the state.
The scam broke out in 2013 and already 25 people involved in it are dead, though unofficial reports cite 41 deaths.
Many of them died under mysterious circumstances, and several witnesses have approached the court.
While a special task force has been set up to investigate the case and the high court is monitoring the probe through a special investigation team after the Opposition accused the state government of going slow, the special task force’s scope of work, at present, does not include probing the mystery deaths.
This is because the state government believes that these deaths were due to natural causes and they had nothing to do with the scam.
In a supremely insensitive comment, Madhya Pradesh home minister and old warhorse Babulal Gaur on Monday almost ridiculed the dead, saying that there is nothing “unnatural” in these deaths and ruled out a probe into them.
To date the state government has put up a brave face but chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s ‘Mr Clean-Mr Development’ image has taken a beating and he is aware of it.
Yet, as most politicians are hardwired to do, Mr Chouhan is refusing to give in to Opposition pressure because accepting a probe into the deaths would mean accepting that they are not ‘natural’.
On Monday, the government released a press note defending itself: Fifty-five cases have been registered against the irregularities committed in conduct of examinations by Vyapam and that ‘necessary action’ (arrest) has been taken against 2,000 accused out of 2,500 named in the case.
In other words, the state has done enough to get to the bottom of the case and nothing more needs to be done, at least for now.
Since 2004, Vyapam has been conducting tests and 1,087 ineligible students were admitted to medical colleges from 2008-2013, though their admissions were later cancelled.
But cancelling admissions is not enough.
As things stand now, the only honourable way forward for Mr Chouhan would be to accept that it is too much of a coincidence that so many people involved in the case have been dying.
He, however, seems to think that it’s better to wait and ride out the storm.
After all, the dead can tell no tales.