A series of mysterious deaths of witnesses, whistle-blowers and accused in the multi-crore Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh has made it one of India's biggest and bloodiest scandal involving politicians to peons. The enormity of the scam and subsequent deaths reflect a similar pattern that the country has witnessed in the past vis-à-vis Bihar's fodder scam and the massive National Rural Health Mission funds embezzlement in Uttar Pradesh. Hindustan Times revisits the other big two.
FODDER SCAM IN BIHAR
The scam that ended RJD supremo Lalu Prasad's rule as chief minister of Bihar involves the alleged decade-long looting of about Rs 950 crore from funds given to the state animal husbandry department, which supplied fodder, medicines and artificial insemination instruments for livestock. It was alleged that suppliers, government officials, senior bureaucrats and politicians ran a well-entrenched racket to siphon off crores of money by creating fictitious herds of cattle or under-supplying material by fudging figures.
HOW THE SCAM BROKE
The starting point was withdrawal of Rs 37.7 crore from the Chaibasa treasury through fake bills in the early 1990s. A comptroller and auditor general (CAG) report, which Lalu Prasad's government didn't table in the assembly for four years, exposed the irregularities. He finally tabled it in December 1995 and three months later, the CBI took up the case under the Supreme Court's instruction.
The kingpin was the late Shyam Bihari Sinha, a regional director of the animal husbandry department in Ranchi. He was said to be the man who chalked out and executed the loot. He had apparently greased palms from bottom to top - junior and senior officials, regional leaders and big politicos.
Lalu quit the chief minister's post in 1997 when his name figured in the CBI investigation. The charge-sheet says he used to protect the racketeers and got rewarded in return. He increased the allocation to the animal husbandry department since 1990 when he came to power. The CAG had objected to it. Lalu was sentenced to five years in jail in October 2013 while another former chief minister, Jagannath Mishra, has given a four-year sentence.
In all, there were 54 cases and more than 600 accused, of whom more than 500 have been convicted. When Bihar was bifurcated to form Jharkhand, 52 cases went to Ranchi.
According to reports, more than a dozen people associated with the scam died unnaturally. Union minister Chandra Deo Prasad Verma died of shock; a state minister stabbed himself to death; four suppliers died in jail while another one was run over by a train at Dhanbad railway station; and one more accused supplier fled from a courtroom and jumped off a high-rise building in Kolkata. Five employees of the animal husbandry department died, most of them run over by trucks, while a petitioner was shot dead in Ranchi.
NATIONAL RURAL HEALTH MISSION (NRHM) SCAM IN UTTAR PRADESH
A comptroller and auditor general (CAG) report in 2012 blew the lid off the multi-crore scam, where Rs 4,900 crore released for various National Rural Health Mission (NRHM) projects between 2005 and 2011 was allegedly embezzled by a vast racket comprising politicians at the top and clerks at the bottom. Later, the cover-up left a bloody trail between 2010 and 2012 as many people associated withNRHM were either killed or died mysteriously.
HOW THE SCAM BROKE
When two chief medical officers (CMO) and a deputy chief medical officer handling NRHM funds were found murdered in 2010-11, the Allahabad high court ordered a CBI probe.
Moreover, the 2012 CAG report said funds for construction and renovation of hospitals as well procurement of medicine and instruments have been misappropriated. The state government didn't monitor the NRHM funds, while the internal audit mechanism was defunct.
WHO WERE IN POWER
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was in power when NRHM was launched in UP in 2005 and two years later, the BSP was voted in.
PROBE AND ARRESTS
The CBI arrested then family welfare minister Babu Singh Kushwaha and principal secretary (health and family welfare) Pradeep Shukla after raids at more than 100 places across UP. Many CMOs were detained, questioned, arrested and suspended along with about 40 government doctors. Owners of 200 firms supplying drug, instruments and construction material were also taken into custody.
The CMO of Lucknow was shot dead in October 2010, while another one was killed in April 2014. Both were on a morning walk when assailants on motorcycles shot them dead. A deputy CMO was found dead in a district jail hospital toilet in 2011. Initially described as suicide, a re-investigation found eight deep cuts on his body. An assistant engineer, who cleared NRHM construction and renovation projects, allegedly committed suicide in January 2012. A deputy CMO died in a road accident a month later while on his way to meet CBI officials. Days later, a health department clerk's body was found on a field.
The probe is still on, though the CBI has filed 71 cases plus around 14 charge-sheets.