Though the CBI is investigating the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh, nothing much has come out of it due to severe staff shortage in the premier investigating agency
By Rakesh Dixit
When Madhya Pradesh goes to the assembly election in late 2018, the Vyapam scam might not be bedevilling the ruling BJP and its chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan. He could well say the CBI is still probing the scam and the opposition should wait for its outcome.
While this is a hypothetical scenario, the tardy pace of investigation makes this quite possible. Over five months have elapsed since the Supreme Court ordered the CBI to take over the probe into the job-cum-admission rigging from the MP government-controlled Special Task Force (STF). But the CBI has shown no tangible progress. No fresh arrests have been made. Over 2,200 accused, including impersonators, bogus candidates, job aspirants, middlemen, politicians and bureaucrats are in jail. More than 400 suspects are still absconding.
The only headway that the CBI has made so far in this case was on September 24 when 40 searches were carried out in MP and UP, including on the premises of former technical education minister Laxmikant Sharma and officials of the Madhya Pradesh Profess-ional Examination Board. Nothing substantial was found, though the CBI traced phone call details of some of the key accused. It refused to divulge the details.
Till now, the CBI has taken over 150 cases of rigging in admission and recruitments from the STF, besides registering 18 preliminary inquiries into some 40 Vyapam-related deaths. Of these, the CBI picked up only the mysterious death of medical student Nam-rata Damor for further investigation and registered a murder case against unidentified accused. However, what led to a national furore was four deaths within three days in June of those related to the scam (see box).
The scam had unravelled with the arrest of 20 impersonators in the pre-medical test in Indore in July 2013. Arrests followed in quick succession as it transpired that not only admissions to medical colleges but also all recruitment tests conducted by the professional examination board or its Hindi abbreviation, Vyapam, were rigged.
With the CBI taking over the Vyapam probe, the opposition and whistleblowers in the scam had hoped that Chouhan’s days in office would be numbered. Their hope stemmed from the widely-held belief that Prime Minister Narendra Modi considers Chouhan a potential rival in the BJP. They had hoped the CBI probe into Vyapam would provide Modi a good opportunity to cut the CM to size. However, Congress leaders feel that Modi is not likely to destabilize any BJP CM on corruption at this moment.
Whistle-blower Prashant Pandey had given an incriminating hard disc to Digvijaya Singh which was sent to a forensic lab in Hyderabad. But despite two months having elapsed, the report hasn’t come out. “I am optimistic that the CBI will take the probe to its logical conclusion,” says Pandey. CBI spokesman Devpreet Singh assures that action will be taken against those who are found to have tampered with evidence.
Other whistleblowers share the Congress’ pessimism. Whistle-blower Ashish Chatur-vedi says the CBI has been disappointing as it didn’t interrogate the high and mighty accu-sed in the case. Another whistle-blower, Ajay Dubey, says the CBI has only strengthened the perception that it doesn’t work indepen-dently. “It seems to be going the STF way,” he says.
However, in a report submitted to the Supreme Court, the CBI had said: “The colossal task of investigating 107 cases pertaining to alleged corruption and nearly 50 cases pertaining to the suspected deaths related to Vyapam scam having more than 2,000 accused cannot be met with the existing manpower and infrastructure of CBI.”
It sought sanction of 496 posts to probe the scam, including 108 constables, 36 head constables, 18 assistant sub-inspectors, 36 inspectors, 63 inspectors, 18 DSPs, 9 ASPs, 9 SPs and three DIGs. This would entail a recurring expenditure of around `24.07 crore and a non-recurring one of around `55 crore.
Devpreet Singh says the CBI’s demand for setting up a special branch for the scam has been notified. This will enable investigating officers to avail of housing facility in Bhopal and other places in MP. The CBI is now looking for officers across its branches to work on the scam. This exercise is likely to take a long time and till then, investigation will be slow, if not stop altogether.