It was a Saturday morning on July 7, 2013, when thousands of aspiring doctors were flocking to exam centres in Madhya Pradesh for a statewide entrance test to its medical colleges.
Kailash Chandra Patidar, a crime branch sub-inspector in the city, received information that a group of students from Uttar Pradesh staying in a hotel 20 kilometres from Indore was involved in some suspicious activities.
Patidar could not have imagined that the tip-off would lead him to the multi-layered Vyapam test-rigging scam that sparked nationwide outrage with rampant manipulation of competitive exams in the state and everybody from students and politicians to bureaucrats and doctors under suspicion.
At least 28 people, including officials of the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB), or Vyapam, and kingpins Jagdish Sagar and Sudhir Rai were arrested by the crime branch before the case was handed over to a state special task force (STF).
The students from UP turned out to be imposters, also known as “solvers”, meant to appear in the tests instead of candidates willing to pay and, in some cases, help applicants cheat in the examination halls.
“I kept an eye on the solvers who came from Uttar Pradesh and later arrested them. It was suspicious that the accused were staying in the suburbs when there were several hotels near bus stands and the railway station in the city,” Patidar told HT.
“I simply feel proud that I was the one who arrested the first links to the scam.”
Patidar was drafted into Indore’s crime branch in 2012 following his exploits in the state’s Khandwa district where he caught several accused in the Jain Hospital blast incident and solved many abduction cases.
“I had never imagined that this scam would be so deep-rooted with such bigwigs allegedly involved,” he said. “It is still a shock to me.”
The Supreme Court handed over the scam probe to the CBI this month with more than 40 mysterious deaths of accused, beneficiaries, whistle-blowers and witnesses.
At least 2,800 people have been arrested and hundreds are wanted in the case with multiple rackets helping candidates manoeuvre the examinations for money, including employing imposters to write test papers, manipulating seating arrangements as well as supplying forged answer sheets.