The >Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh can no longer be considered just another corruption scandal of the conventional sort. It appears to be unique in combining the average fraudster’s ability to manipulate systems, with the reach and ruthlessness of an organised mafia-like group that can eliminate inconvenient suspects and witnesses. From being a set of inter-linked corruption cases involving the manipulation of tests for admission to professional courses and government recruitments, the scandal has emerged as a hydra-headed monster consuming over 40 lives so far. New questions stem from the unexplained deaths, including that of a television journalist who collapsed mysteriously shortly after interviewing the parents of a medical student who had been found dead on a railway track three years ago. The State government has admitted that nearly two dozen of those who were within the ambit of the probe had died unnatural deaths, and that many of them were between 25 and 30, with ‘road accident’ being cited as the leading cause of death. An elaborate conspiracy to subvert the investigation and trial can be the only credible explanation for the string of deaths. The magnitude of the cover-up appears to have overshadowed the extent of the original scandal.
Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s move to approach the High Court to seek to hand over the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation is but a bid to pre-empt a potentially damaging order from the Supreme Court to that effect. Mr. Chouhan seems to have recognised that he needs to do something to shore up the credibility of his administration. Governor Ram Naresh Yadav himself being named in one of the FIRs should have jolted the State government into serious action. Within weeks, the Governor’s son, Shailesh Yadav, who was named by a witness as the recipient of some cash and a list of candidates, was dead. The Union government’s silence on the Governor’s continuance in office is intriguing indeed. The death of Akshay Singh, the TV journalist, and new evidence that the police ignored an autopsy report that stated that Namrata Damor, a medical student and alleged beneficiary, died of strangulation, are further pointers to the fact that the investigation under the State government is vulnerable to interference, subversion and manipulation. Nearly 2,000 people have been booked and the kingpins and their accomplices arrested. What is needed now is an independent and comprehensive investigation into the cover-up and the wider conspiracy, if any, behind the series of deaths. It has to be determined whether these were engineered to protect someone. Such a probe will have to be done under the Supreme Court’s vigilant eye. This outrageous chapter has to come to an end.