After 4-year gap, STF to probe Vyapam scam again
Four years after it handed over the investigation into the multi-layered Vyapam scam to the CBI, Madhya Pradesh police’s special task force (STF) has decided to probe complaints overlooked by the federal agency , officials have said.
The STF has also sought the Supreme Court’s guidance in this matter, according to senior STF officials.
“We are sifting through the complaints that the STF had received and was not taken up by the CBI. Most of the complaints are related to fraud in the admission of medical students in private medical colleges, though management quota,” additional director general of STF Ashok Awasthi said.
“We wrote to the Supreme Court, through the state’s advocate general, last week informing them about the fresh probe and sought guidance to ensure there is no legal objection,” Awasthi added.
The Vyapam scam, as it is known, surfaced in July 2013 when the police arrested 20 impersonators appearing for the medical entrance examination in Indore. Vyapam is the Hindi acronym for the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB), which conducts a raft of entrance examinations for professional courses and government job recruitment tests for posts ranging from food inspectors to forest guards.
The racket, in which undeserving candidates secured high ranks by either getting proxies to impersonate them in the tests or through cheating by other means, involved a clique of politicians and bureaucrats that facilitated the fraud in exchange for bribes, according to investigators.
Periodic revelations by whistleblowers and the mysterious deaths of at least 16 people associated with the racket, including some accused and witnesses, have kept the scandal alive and investigators busy.
Officials of the Central Bureau of Investigation said they are mainly investigating cases in which the ‘engine-bogie’ model was used wherein the ‘engine’, usually a good student, took the exam and helped the ‘bogie’ to cheat.
“Our investigation against private medical colleges is limited to the ‘engine-bogie’ modus-operandi. The STF can well probe the irregularities in the conversion of state quota to management quota; there will be no duplication,” a senior CBI official, who is not authorised to talk to media, said.
However, the more complex part of the scam, under which management of private medical colleges fraudulently converted state quota seats to management quota and sold it to the highest bidder, was barely touched by the CBI.
Anand Rai, one of the whistleblowers in the case, said it was well-oiled scam machinery in which Vyapam officials and private medical college administration were involved.
“Till the last hour of counselling, the seat under state quota was shown as ‘filled’, and by that time all the ‘genuine’ students, who stood a chance to get the state quota seat, usually took admission elsewhere. With no claimant, the state quota seat was quickly converted into the management quota and the chosen candidate got admission,” Rai said.
They did this as the fee for a state quota seat is decided by the Admission and Fees Regulatory Committee (AFRC) and under management quota, the same seat was sold for crores of rupees, so everyone had a vested interest, added Rai.
The Congress in its election manifesto had promised that a fresh probe would be launched into the Vyapam scam, but it gathered momentum after the income tax department’s raids in March against those close to chief minister Kamal Nath, though Congress leaders have denied there is any link between the two.
“The BJP did not probe the Vyapam scam for four years as their top leaders were involved, but now the Congress the government will probe all its aspects, as we had promised in our election manifesto,” state home minister Bala Bachchan said.
Bachchan, in a written reply to the state assembly, said that the STF had received 1,355 Vyapam-related complaints. The task force registered cases in 34 complaints and handed it over to the CBI, under orders of the Supreme Court, and of the remaining, 550 have been handed over to various district police stations.
However, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has called it vendetta politics.
“The Congress got nervous due to the defeat in the Lok Sabha election and income tax raid and is creating unnecessary noise for political vendetta,” the BJP’s spokesperson Rajneesh Agrawal said.