Vyapam: not just a fraud but an organised blow

After despair comes fear for people of MP as the toll of scam-linked deaths keeps rising

prahlad

Prahlad Rao | July 22, 2015



In India, scandals after scandals and scams after scams have turned the public dangerously cynical. The Vyapam scandal of Madhya Pradesh is one such scam where everybody is a suspect even while the real horror is yet to be unravelled.

How can one trust a doctor now, mumbled Leela Subramaniam, a retired school teacher in Bhopal, as she watched the relentless media coverage of the Vyapam scam, and alleged cover-up attempts.

She found it difficult not to look at doctors with suspicion. Even the credibility of the teachers appointed by the government through Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) or Vyapam  (Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal) has become questionable.

Leela’s fear is shared by many in MP – the scam has generated distrust towards the system and authorities.
Akhaya Kumar Nayak, IIM-Indore faculty for humanities and social sciences, said, “Scams of such enormity definitely impact society. It is a
matter that has to be further researched.”

But some believe that the damage is already done. Dr Anand Rai, one of the whistleblowers of the scam, claimed that the scam practically affects the very fabric of society. “Be it doctors, teachers or law enforcers, people have started looking at them with suspicion,” he said.

“Vyapam is not just a fraud committed on those appearing in examinations – it is an organised blow on society delivered by individuals at high places for their vested interests. The fraudsters never knew that their expanding empire could have such an impact on the people of Madhya Pradesh,” Dr Rai said.

The perpetrators manipulated the selection process for government colleges and jobs conducted by the MPPEB. They encouraged tactics like impersonation of candidates and rampant copying. Some candidates were asked to leave behind blank ‘optical mark recognition’ (OMR) answer sheets to be filled with correct answers later.

Official records show that between 2008 and 2013, 27,32,614 students appeared in 99 entrance examinations including the pre-medical test (PMT) conducted by MPPEB.

The Madhya Pradesh government appointed 1.40 lakh people in government jobs in departments like police, forests, revenue, education and others through Vyapam by conducting 68 examinations wherein 49.44 lakh students appeared.

Dr Tripat Kaur Chawla, head of department of sociology, Atal Bihari Vajpayee government arts and commerce college, Indore, said, “The scam and its exhaustive media coverage have instilled fear among the people. Not only the students deprived of selection through the Vyapam exams, the general public is also affected by the sense of distrust.”

She had a simple query: Would the scam perpetrators prefer to get themselves treated by their clients who have graduated from the medical colleges?

The sense of distrust started getting deeper when the special task force (STF) constituted by the state government identified students who used services of the fraudsters and subsequently 27 students of the MGM medical college in Indore were suspended in 2013. The STF claimed it had identified 287 such students.

MGM medical college dean Dr MK Rathore said steps were taken to streamline the examination process. “Strict guidelines have been put in place,” he said.

But people following the probe feel that it was too little too late.

The situation worsened when the STF probe got embroiled in controversies with allegations afoot about investigators demanding bribes to brush names of suspects under the carpet. The distrust further deepened.

Dr Chawla said latest reports about the deaths of people gave the entire episode a sinister look. “People who believe in civil society feel, ‘Aisa bhi hota hai kya’,” she added.

prahladrao@governancenow.com

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