In the midst of the MP professional examination board (MPPEB) scam related political storm, statements of ministers of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet pertaining to the deaths related to the scam have only displayed their insensitivity on the issue.
Madhya Pradesh minister Kailash Vijayvargiya, who had made an insensitive comment over the death of a television journalist investigating the Vyapam recruitment scam, has claimed he was only joking and was taken out of context.
Akshay Singh, an India Today Group journalist, died in mysterious circumstances in Jhabua district in Madhya Pradesh, soon after interviewing the family of a girl who was found dead after her name figured in the massive admission and recruitment scandal.
Speaking to journalists after a news conference by Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Sunday, Vijayvargiya responded to a question about Singh's death by saying: "Forget that journalist (who died). Is he a bigger journalist than me?"
Footage aired on television showed Chouhan and Vijayvargiya smiling after he made the comment.
Earlier, he reportedly in a talk with a news agency in Bengaluru termed the death of the journalist as caused by cardiac arrest. The fact was when Vijayvargiya made the claim the postmortem report was still awaited.
However, on Monday, Kailash Vijayvargiya was in a damage control mode saying that he had been quoted out of context on the issue. He offered condolences to the family of Akshay Singh.
He also told NDTV, "The journalist's death is very sad. No one appreciates more than me what journalists go through while covering a story. On Saturday night, during a casual conversation with an ABP reporter, he said something and I dismissed it - now the off the record conversation is being sensationalised. I don't want to defend myself but I ask journalists - do you think Kailash Vijayvargiya will say something so insensitive?"
Watch:MP minister Vijayvargiya defends insensitive remark on deceased journalist
Vijayvargiya has said he will visit the journalist's family on Monday.
Singh was rushed to hospital after he complained of uneasiness in Jhabua while interviewing the family members of the woman whose death in January 2012 is also shrouded in mystery. The journalist was rushed to the civil hospital and later to a private hospital, but doctors failed to revive him. From there he was taken to another hospital in nearby Dahod in Gujarat, where he was declared brought dead.
Before Singh, at least 38 people, many of them at a very young age and in different circumstances, linked to the scam have died.
The opposition Congress has been demanding that the probe into the scam, conducted by a special task force (STF) under the supervision of a court-appointed special investigation team (SIT), be handed over to the CBI.
Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has come under increasing pressure over the scam with the Congress launching a series of agitation against what it calls a systematic elimination of people linked to the scam.
Last week, when MPPEB scam accused Narendra Singh Tomar died in an Indore hospital after being taken ill in Indore jail, state home minister Babulal Gaur when asked about the incident adopted a philosophical approach and said, “ jo ayaa hai who jayega hi chahe jail ye ya rail me“ (whoever is born has to die whether in jail or train) while dismissing all the deaths of the MPPEB scam accused as natural.
Higher education minister Uma Shankar Gupta also reportedly lost his cool while at a press conference in Guna on Sunday when a journalist asked him a question related to MPPEB scam deaths. He asked the journalist if he had some hearing problem (Bahare ho kya?).
The forest minister Gaurishankar Shejwar who accompanied the state government spokesperson Narottam Mishra on Monday said none of the 25 deaths listed by the state government were linked by MPPEB scam.
The STF has already taken up a probe into the death of 25 people including that of Shailesh Yadav, son of governor Ram Naresh Yadav.
More than 2,000 people have been arrested in connection with the scam which allegedly involved politicians, bureaucrats and middlemen. The scam involved scamsters employing imposters to write tests conducted by the board for admission and recruitment to various courses and government jobs, and supplying forged answer sheets by bribing officials between 2012 and 2013.