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Sordid saga of a scam

Sordid saga of a scam
Highlights

Three mysterious deaths in as many days – a scribe, a university don and a trainee police inspector – taking the total to 46, or more, have definitely queered the pitch for Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan. They are all the consequences of a widespread scam about recruitment of personnel under the MP Professional

Three mysterious deaths in as many days – a scribe, a university don and a trainee police inspector – taking the total to 46, or more, have definitely queered the pitch for Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan. They are all the consequences of a widespread scam about recruitment of personnel under the MP Professional Examinations Board (Hindi acronym Vyapam). Politicians, officials and businessmen are said to be involved in putting up proxy candidates and vitiating the examination and recruitment process.

Most, if not all, of these deaths are suspected suicides or even alleged murders. The most alarming thing about this sordid, still-unfolding saga is that they cover the scam’s victims, witnesses, whistleblowers, investigators and journalists. The number so far indicates a rate higher than the farmers’ suicides that the country has been used to hearing about.

It cannot be wished away, and is getting political by the day with a Congress-filed petition before the Supreme Court and the presence of Rahul Gandhi and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal at the funeral of journalist Akshay Singh. This is Chauhan’s third term. The scam has developed during his (BJP’s) regime. The family of State Governor Ram Naresh Yadav is involved, with his son’s mysterious death. The apex court has agreed to hear a petition seeking Yadav’s removal. The issue is no longer confined to MP.

Despite all that he said in defence and the anguish he expressed at his Monday news conference about these deaths (19 deaths, his government insists), it is clear that the CM is trying hard to keep things within his control and avoiding a full-fledged probe. He moved with alacrity in getting the High Court to ‘reject’ a CBI probe and let the special investigation team (SIT) continue with its task. He would like all concerned and the country to await the SIT’s report.

This is simply not acceptable. If not the Union government, the apex court needs to step in. The nation must know the truth and culprits must be booked. Chauhan is aware that former Haryana CM Om Prakash Chautala, accused of graft in teachers’ recruitment, a smaller scam than Vyapam, is in jail and has been denied bail.

Taking in the bigger picture, Chauhan may be stonewalling a probe on the assumption that he enjoys a majority in the legislature and cannot be removed. PM Narendra Modi is battling the ‘Lalitgate’ involving another powerful CM, Rajasthan’s Vasundhara Raje. Although both the CMs do not owe their positions to Modi, nor is Modi beholden to them for his Lok Sabha majority, there is no way the matter can be swept aside by the PM, the CM and the ruling BJP.

Chauhan has announced medical examination of scribe Akshay Singh’s body in New Delhi. Having taken this step, it should be easier for him to also accede to a central probe in the Vyapam scam and the resultant deaths. That would help clear his name. Merely bad-mouthing critics and the political opposition will not do.

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