Bhopal/New Delhi: It started out as just another case of systemic corruption that is part of everyday life in the country but now after over 45 deaths, the Madhya Pradesh Vyapam scam is being dubbed as one of the biggest scams in the country.
With three deaths in the last three days, the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) scam, known by its Hindi acronym Vyapam, has turned into a monster which Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan can ignore at his own peril.
The latest in the series of deaths of people linked in one way or the other to the examination was that of a trainee woman cop on Monday. She reportedly committed suicide by jumping into a pond in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. On Sunday, Dr Arun Sharma, the dean of a Jabalpur Medical College, was found dead in a Delhi hotel.
Dr Sharma's death came exactly a year after his predecessor at Netaji Subhas Chandra Medical College Dr DK Sakalle's body was found in charred condition at his residence in Bhopal.
Media reports said that both Dr Sharma and Dr Sakalle were in charge of the document verification committee that was involved in checking the credentials of students suspected of having used unfair methods to clear Pre-Medical Test (PMT) and Pre-PG exams.
Dr Sharma's death came less than 24 hours after television journalist Akshay Singh died minutes after he interviewed the family members of a student Namrata Domor in Jhabua. Domor's mutilated body was found on a railway track in Indore in 2012.
While there are no conclusive evidences of any foul play in their deaths, the series of unexplained deaths has reaffirmed the suspicion that attempts are being made to eliminate people linked to the scam.
Over 2,000 people under suspicion in connection with the scam and the steady increase in deaths has put Chief Minister Chouhan under immense pressure to hand over the probe to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
However, the state government has so far resisted the move, saying the case is being probed by a special task force (SIT) – monitored by the Madhya Pradesh High Court. But those demanding CBI probe have raised serious questions on non-partiality of the SIT as it comprises of officers from the state police.
With the Supreme Court, Monday, agreeing to hear a plea seeking removal of the Madhya Pradesh Governor due to his alleged involvement in the Vyapam scam, the matter has now reached before the apex court of the country and may lead to the court directing the state government to order a CBI probe.
Meanwhile, the Vyapam scam whistleblower Ashish Chaturvedi, who had unearthed the scam in 2003, has approached the police seeking enhanced security cover as he fears that he will be eliminated if he testifies in court in the case.
The Vyapam scam-related deaths have been continuing for the last decade but it seldom raised suspicion then as they were not in quick succession as they have been in the past few months. What is adding to the fear of a mischief is that the increase in deaths comes just ahead of July 15 when the SIT is to submit second chargesheet – which reportedly looks into the wider conspiracy behind the scam.
For Chouhan, who is into his third successive term as CM, the Vyapam scam is the biggest challenge to his track record of having put Madhya Pradesh on the fast lane of development.
With many high and mighty are said to be among the beneficiaries of the scam, Chouhan's resoluteness in getting to the bottom of the scam will be put to test like never before.
The nation is watching.