A Delhi-based television journalist died on Saturday in the midst of an investigation into the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh, deepening a mystery over a series of unexplained deaths of people linked to the multi-layered examination racket.
Police said that Akshay Singh, 35, from the India Today channel, was rushed to hospital after he complained of uneasiness in Jhabua while interviewing family-members of a woman whose death in January, 2012 is also shrouded in mystery.
Jhabua SP Abid Khan said prima facie there was nothing suspicious about the journalist’s death though the post-mortem report was awaited. State home minister Babulal Gaur too said a decision on whether the death needed to be investigated would be taken after the autopsy report came out.
Before Singh, at least 38 people linked to the scam had died , many of them at a very young age and in different circumstances.
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.
The STF has already taken up a probe into 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.
Singh has gone to Jhabua to interview family members of Namrata Damor, a medical student whose mutilated body was recovered from a railway track in Ujjain, more than 150km from her home. Police had termed the 25-year-old’s death as suicide.
Congress spokesperson RS Surjewala said that Singh’s death has once again raised “very serious concerns and questions and needs to be investigated thoroughly and impartially.”
Singh’s colleagues, too, said his death was suspicious.
Fellow Aaj Tak reporter Arvind Ojha told HT he had spoken to Singh just half an hour ago before the incident.
“We were working together on unearthing the scam. This morning we split up, he went to Indore and I came to Bhopal. He told me he was going to interview a victim’s family. I told him to be careful. Half an hour later, he was dead.”
Ojha added that Singh did not have any heart ailments, didn’t smoke or drink, and was “completely fit”.
The TV Today group later issued a statement saying, “The cause of his sudden demise is not yet clear…We hope doctors and law enforcement agencies are able to establish the cause of his death.”