Why Is the PM Silent on Scams and Murderous Cover-Ups?

Corruption is once again turning out to be a great leveller in the Indian Political League of ruling class parties. Only a year ago Narendra Modi had stormed his way to power riding on the wave of anger against corruption. Repatriation of black money and transparent governance had figured high on his list of promises. The promise of repatriation of black money has already been buried by Amit Shah with his candid confession that the whole thing was meant to be just poll rhetoric to garner votes. Yet on the first anniversary of the Modi government's ascent to power, Modi and several other senior BJP ministers and leaders claimed credit for delivering scam-free governance. Now the claim is being washed away by a virtual flood of corruption cases surfacing almost on a daily basis.

The shadow cast by the damning disclosures on Lalitgate is getting darker with every passing day. What initially appeared to be a case of impropriety and conflict of interest on the part of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has now been exposed to be an intricate and intimate multidimensional nexus involving Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje and her son Dushyant Singh who is also a BJP MP. The clout enjoyed by Lalit Modi grew through the earlier term of Raje as Rajasthan CM with state property being clandestinely converted into lucrative private property and Lalit Modi expanding and consolidating his business interest with the launch of the money-spinning annual inter-city cricket carnival called IPL.

The Congress is now revelling in the revelations of the Raje-Modi nexus. But it is common knowledge that the rise of Lalit Modi as the IPL czar owed no less to the blessings of powerful Congress/UPA leaders. And as far as the issue of private appropriation of the controversial Dholpur palace is concerned, the Congress cannot absolve itself of its past complicity and silence. The Ashok Gehlot government had done nothing to undo this illegal appropriation, rather it validated the wrongful appropriation with payment of hefty compensation to Dushyant Singh for land utilised for road construction. The power wielded by the likes of Vasundhara Raje, Dushyant Singh and Lalit Modi is no aberration in today's India; it is typical of the crony capitalism that has evolved on the feudal soil of apparently abolished landlordism and princely status.

Rajasthan is not the only BJP-ruled state where corruption has become the talking point. In fact, corruption is fast becoming the common characteristic of every BJP-ruled state. Take the case of Madhya Pradesh where the BJP has been uninterruptedly in power for more than a decade. The government here is overshadowed by the Vyapam (the board that conducts all tests in the state for admission and recruitment in various services) scam with senior RSS functionaries alleged to have been manipulating the recruitment process in connivance with ministers and bureaucrats. This systematic manipulation has not only promoted financial corruption but also ensured that the professional network is filled overwhelmingly by loyal pro-RSS people. The MP government has been brazenly suppressing the scam since it got exposed a few years ago, and more than thirty people from among the accused and witnesses have already died under suspicious circumstances.

Two ministers of the Maharashtra cabinet – women and child welfare minister Pankaja Munde and education minister Vinod Tawde – also stand accused of major irregularities, ordering purchases at excessive prices without issuing public tender. Dubious deals with business houses – the so called sweet deals between business and politics – remain an open secret in states like Gujarat and mineral-rich Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand. Then there are the Smriti Iranis who are stubbornly continuing in office despite having been exposed to be guilty of submitting anomalous affidavits in elections.

Modi and the BJP used to blame Manmohan Singh for his silence even as the UPA government got embroiled in scam after scam. Modi had sarcastically renamed Manmohan Singh as Maunmohan Singh for his notorious silence. But ever since he became Prime Minister, Modi too has been practising selective silence. His silence on the issue of communal hate speeches delivered by his colleagues has been as ominous as his own hate speeches in the wake of the Gujarat genocide in 2002. And now even on the issue of corruption charges concerning his own government and party, he has become conspicuously silent. In his latest Mann Ki Baat (straight from the heart) radio speech, he talked about yoga and encouraged his listeners to send him selfies taken with their daughters, but remained absolutely tight-lipped about the scams involving his own party and government.

Ironically, while Modi practises silence on charges of communal hate and corruption, the things he talks about – yoga and 'selfie with daughters' for example – are also being used by BJP/RSS leaders, activists and many of those who proudly proclaim themselves as Modi Bhakts to target conscientious citizens and entire communities and ideological currents. Vice President Hamid Ansari was targeted on the issue of yoga by BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav, while CPI(ML) leader Kavita Krishnan was singled out for a campaign of vile abuses on social media for raising the well documented issue of the Gujarat government under Modi snooping on a young woman architect.

The Modi government and the BJP must not be allowed to get away – neither with their selective silences nor with their vicious hate campaigns – and must be held accountable for every scam, every act of communal hate and violence and every assault on the livelihood and liberties of the people. Rajnath Singh has brazenly said that NDA ministers will not resign. This arrogance of power must be defeated and the democratic opinion of the country must press ahead with the demand for resignation of tainted BJP ministers.

Killer Vyapam Scam Has Madhya Pradesh In Its Web

“Jo aaya hai, wo ek din jaayega” (Whoever is born, will one day die)!

Babulal Gaur, Home Minister, Government of Madhya Pradesh

A multi-crore scam in which over Rs.2,000 crore is reported to have been exchanged as bribes, a death toll of 50 (as per the last count) and the quote of Madhya Pradesh minister above- they together capture the comprehensive and sinister character of corruption of the BJP brand.

Modi had cashed in on UPA-era scams to promise ‘na khaunga na khane doonga’ (I will neither be corrupt nor let anyone else be corrupt), and as PM, he even boasted to NRIs that India had been ‘Scam India’ till he took over. But just as the Modi Government crossed the one year mark, Lalit Gate exposed the hollowness of its false claims. And now the specter of massive corruption that had begun to surface in early 2000, has come back to haunt not just the BJP but several others who in various ways have been connected to the case.

What is VYAPAM Scam

VYAPAM, short form of the Madhya Pradesh Vyavasayik Pariksha Mandal (also called Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board-MPPEB), claims to be “the only organisation of its kind in the country that holds competitive tests for entrance to various professional courses every year on a very large scale.” Besides Common Entrance Tests (CETs) for professional courses such as Medicine and Engineering, Vyapam also conducts recruitment examinations for “different state level posts which are not to be filled through the Public Service Commission” like sub inspectors of police, assistant grade III/ steno typists, controller food and drugs, and for jobs in agriculture, women and child development, jail, pollution control and in various other government departments.

The Vyapam Scam is a multi crore scam involving serious manipulations and other administrative irregularities in the MPPEB conducted selection process to various government colleges and jobs. The manipulations in the selection process involved impersonation of candidates, rampant copying, blank answer sheets and fake marks.

The 'Investigation'

While in 2007-2008 itself, a report by the Madhya Pradesh Local Fund Audit found alleged financial and administrative irregularities, including unauthorized disposal of application forms worth crores of rupees by the MPPEB, the scam first came to light in 2009 when an Indore based activist Anand Rai filed a PIL requesting investigation into these complaints and the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was forced to set up a committee headed by the State Joint Director of Medical Education to probe the allegations. (Rai, the whistleblower, has been subjected to a punishment transfer soon after the CBI took over the Vyapam probe).

The committee set up in 2009 submitted its report to the government in November 2011. However, the big exposure came in June 2013 with the busting of a racket in pre-medical tests. Following startling revelations, once again by the whistleblower Anand Rai, the MP High Court handed over the investigation to a Special Task Force (STF) in July 2013. Since then, almost 2000 people, including students, middlemen, businessmen, public officials and politicians have been arrested for their role in the scam. (Live Mint 7 July 2015). However, the bigwigs of course remained untouched and several accused or those investigating the case were found dying under mysterious circumstances.

Following charge of unsatisfactory investigation by STF, Madhya Pradesh High Court, on November 5, 2014, ordered setting up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to act as a watchdog for the court.

In the wake of the outrage that followed the mysterious death of a TV journalist probing the Vyapam scam, Shivraj Chouhan announced a CBI probe. But the CBI’s own credibility is strained, and the likelihood of its nailing the bigwigs is poor.

Vyapam- the RSS-BJP Connection

(Excerpts from ‘Vyapam: How a Munnabhai-style Exam Scam Turned Into a Macabre Thriller’ By Rakesh Dixit , The Wire, 01/07/2015)

… Sudhir Sharma’s rise during the 10 years of the BJP regime had been stupendous. He was a teacher in an RSS-run Saraswati Shishu Mandir. When his close friend, Laxmikant Sharma became mining minister, Sudhir quit his job and joined the mining business. Within years, he emerged as a top notch mining baron.

Leveraging his friendship with Laxmikant Sharma, Sudhir got an associate of his, Pankaj Trivedi appointed as examination controller in the PEB. Trivedi was a lecturer in an Indore college, so his elevation in the PEB raised many eyebrows in bureaucratic circles. One of Pankaj’s brothers, Piyush Trivedi, is the vice chancellor of the state’s only technical university. Their cousin, Sudhanshu Trivedi, is BJP’s national spokesperson, and has been accused of being one of the behind-the-scenes players in the scam.

As has been reported by the media, Sudhir Sharma was also close to RSS leaders such as late KS Sudarshan and Suresh Soni. Both the RSS stalwarts are said to have recommended candidates in job tests, although this has since been denied by the STF.

According to investigators, Pankaj Trivedi turned out to be more adept at manipulating the system than Sudhir had ever imagined. He allegedly managed to persuade all the key functionaries in the board, notably chief system analyst Nitin Mahindra, assistant programmer C K Mishra, Ajay Sen and Santosh Gupta.

For years, Pankaj Trivedi and company got away with cheating thousands of deserving medical students and job aspirants, primarily because they were secure in the belief that Laxmikant Sharma, who was also technical education minister and former key aide to chief minister Chouhan, was protecting them. Although the PEB is supposed to be a self-financed, autonomous body with a senior IAS officer as chairman, it was Trivedi and company who called the shots.

The Questions BJP Govt in the State and Centre Cannot Escape

Can BJP escape the fact that Vyapam scam flourished through 2009-13, directly under Shivraj Singh Chouhan's watch, given the fact that (a) Madhya Pradesh Medical Education Department was headed by none other than Shivraj Singh Chouhan during 2008-12, when hundreds of fake admissions took place and (b) Shivaraj Singh Chouhan claims to have started 'investigating' the Vyapam scam ever since the initial expose in 2009, and c) when his OSD himself is accused in the case?

Who will probe the excel sheet, disclosed by whistle blower and investigative officer Prashant Pandey, which carried reference to 'CM'? Why has the STF failed to make any headway in apprehending close associates of the CM named in the scam, like Gulab Singh Kirar and others?

How come the Madhya Pradesh Governor Ram Naresh Yadav, despite the Vyapam scam taint, survived in his post and continues to enjoy Modi government's favour, when almost every other Governor appointed during the UPA rule has been shifted, sacked and nudged out by the Narendra Modi government?

Vyapam Scam isn’t just about the money that exchanged hands, it is equally about those who were denied their right to study the course of their choice or a job that they deserved, despite having the ability for the same, just because someone richer bribed and bought the degree or the job. It is equally about destroying our health care systems by recruiting in them doctors who bribed their way through medical colleges and are now perhaps more focused on recovering the crores of bribes they initially paid; it is about destroying our education systems by imposing on us teachers who lack qualifications but had resources to pay for the job or the degree; it is also about destroying whatever remains of the police department by recruiting in it thousands of dishonest officers.

In case of Vyapam, the culprits are guilty not just of corruption and shattered dreams, but also of mass murder to cover up the scam.

The involvement of BJP ministers, the involvement of several people close to BJP-RSS leadership and its continuing reign since 2003 is a proof enough of how neck deep BJP is in this particular scam, not forgetting that all the deaths under mysterious and suspicious circumstances have also happened solely during BJP’s rule in the state.

Is infesting the country’s health care, educational and law and order structures with termites that threaten to destroy such crucial institutions of the country, the BJP’s idea of serving the nation?

box 1

Some High Profile Arrests

Laxmikant Sharma: A prominent BJP minister with strong RSS background who held portfolios from mining and higher & technical education to culture and public relations during the 10 years from 2003 and 2013. He was the in-charge of MPPEB in his capacity as the state's Technical Education Minister. (Indian Express June 19, 2014)

O. P. Shukla: Laxmikant Sharma's Officer on Special Duty (OSD).

Sudhir Sharma: A mining baron of MP with RSS background and once an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) of the education minister Laxmikant Sharma.

Pankaj Trivedi: MPPEB Examination Controller, who occupied the position due to the political patronage of RSS/BJP and Sudhir Sharma.

Nitin Mahendra and Ajay Sen Senior: System Analysts with MPPEB.

R. K. Shivhare, suspended IPS Officer (who absconded and later surrendered in April 2014), Ravikant Dwivedi, Suspended Joint Commissioner (Revenue), Dr. Jagdish Sagar, Dr. Sanjeev Shilpakar and Sanjay Gupta (all three were part of the racket for the PMT scam), Sudhir Rai, Santosh Gupta, Tarang Sharma (another gang much bigger than and a competitor to Sagar's racket)

box 2

High Profile Accused Evading Arrests

Governor Ram Naresh Yadav: In February 24, 2015, Yadav was charged by the STF for criminal conspiracy in rigging the MPPEB forest guard recruitment examination. His son Shailesh was an accused in the contractual teachers' recruitment. Interestingly, Shailesh died under mysterious circumstances in March, 2015. Ram Naresh Yadav evaded arrest by citing constitutional immunity to Governor's post!

Dr. Ajay Shankar Mehta, a close associate of the CM and an accused got bail with another scam accused as a guarantor. (‘Man who ‘fixed’ bribe bailed out two MP test scam accused’, Indian Express, 5 Aug 2014)

OSD of the MP CM, Prem Prasad and his daughter, granted bail without any opposition from the state government.

Dr. Gulab Singh Kirar, chairman of State Backward Classes Commission, and his son are accused. Though both are said to be absconding, Kirar has been spotted at several functions. Gulab Singh Kirar enjoys the 'minister of state' status and his son Shakti Pratap Singh finished among top ranks in medical entrance. An FIR was lodged against Shakti Pratap Singh, but he was never arrested and the name of Gulab Singh Kirar as an accused mysteriously disappeared from the list provided by the state home department!

Sudhir Singh Bhadoria : A key accused, Bhadoria was Controller of Examinations in Vyapam between 2008 to 2011 and relative of Union Minister Narendra Tomar. He has not only ‘not been’ arrested, ironically he continues to be the director of the government engineering college in Indore.

Box 3

Serial Deaths Under Mysterious Circumstances

Even as the masterminds and the major beneficiaries continue to evade jail, the relatively smaller fries among the accused and those associated with Vyapam investigation have died mysterious deaths in last two years.

    • • Namrata Damor, who was suspected to have cleared PMT using unfair means, was found near railway tracks at Kayta village in Ujjain on January 7, 2012. NDTV reported on 8 Jan 2015: "She was murdered. There is not even one percent chance of a natural death," said BB Purohit, a doctor in the team that performed the autopsy on Namrata Damor, whose death has been brought back into focus after a TV journalist died last weekend minutes after interviewing her father." A second post-mortem, as well as cops and SIT had disguised this murder as an accident; the CBI is now probing it as a murder.

• Vijay Singh, another accused in the Vyapam scam, was found dead at a local lodge in Kanker on 28 April under mysterious circumstances.

• Narendra Singh Tomar had been named as an accused as well as witness in this scam. Alleged to have arranged for impostors to write the exams for students, he was found dead, once again under “mysterious circumstances” in Indore Jail.

• Amit Sagar, accused of rigging results of forest guard recruitment examination for three candidates, was found dead under suspicious circumstances in Sheopur district before special investigation team could arrest him.

The list indeed, as mentioned above, is a very long one and besides these accused, it includes crucial witnesses and journalists like Akshay Singh who were determined to investigate further and bring the truth out! Two deans of medical colleges who were assisting the probe too couldn’t escape the murderous claws of Vyapam!

• Dr. Arun Sharma, Dean of the Jabalpur-based Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Medical College, who assisting the Special Task force by compiling a list of students who gained admission illegally, was found dead in a Delhi hotel last Sunday.

• Dr D.K. Sakalley, predecessor of Dr. Sharma, died last year on 4 July again under ‘mysterious’ circumstances. While it was claimed that he had self-immolated, the pictures of him running out of his home engulfed in flames had sent shivers down the spines of all those involved in the task of assisting the investigation.

This endless saga of horror continues as the mysterious death toll rose to 48, when a female trainee cop who had been recruited under Vyapam, committed suicide on 6 July 2015.

Liberation Archive