Madhya Pradesh’s PEB scam is getting murkier by the day. While the STF probing has found 32
suspects dead, whistleblowers and the opposition Congress claim it could be as high as 156
By Rakesh Dixit
A list of scam accused who have been declared dead in the STF report:
Anshul Sanchan, Anuj Pandey, Vikram Singh, Arvind Shakya, Kuldeep Maravi, Anantram Tagore, Ashutosh Tiwari, Gyan Singh (Bhind), Pramod Sharma (Bhind), Vikas Pandey (Allahabad), Vikas Thakur (Barwani), Shyamveer Singh Yadav, Aditya Chaudhary, Deepak Jain (Shivpuri), Gyan Singh (Gwalior), Brijesh Rajput (Barwani), Narendra Rajput (Jhansi), Anand Singh Yadav (Fatehpur), Anirudh Uikey (Mandla), Lalit Kumar Pashupatinath Jaiswal, Ragvendra Singh (Singrauli), Anand Singh (Barwani), Manish Kumar Samadia (Jhansi), Dinesh Jatav and Gyan Singh (Sagar).
Madhya Pradesh’s infamous Professional Exami-nation Board (PEB) scam has begun to unfold like a macabre crime thriller. The Special Task Force (STF) probing it for the last two years detected that 32 of the suspects were dead. However, two whistleblowers insist that many mysterious deaths related to the scam have not been included in the STF list submitted to the MP High Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) on May 27. The opposition Congress has claimed that the number of those dead could be as high as 156.
The scam, which surfaced in July 2013, included many influential politicians and bureaucrats and even singed governor Ram Naresh Yadav and chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. STF officials privately admit they are surprised at the huge number of deaths related to the scam. What is surprising is that the number of dead has kept on increasing as STF investigators intensified their probe in view of the June 15 deadline that the Supreme Court has given to them to complete the task.
Over 2,000 accused are already in jail and 650 are wanted in connection with 60 separate chargesheets filed by the STF in various courts of Bhopal and other cities of the state. A senior STF officer said that during interrogations of students, impersonators, middlemen and job racketeers, investigators were alarmed when several accused started naming people who were already dead. Such a method is used by organized crime syndicates to mislead probes.
SIT chairman Justice Chandresh Bhus-han has asked STF officers to collect the death certificates of the deceased and ascertain the cause of deaths. Most are from the Chambal region, straddling MP and UP. He assured the media on May 28 that he would seek a detailed investigation into the deaths.
(From left to right) The deaths of DK Sakalle, Namrata Damor, Shailesh Yadav and Vijay Singh Patel were much publicized
Four of the deaths were much-publicized. They include that of Indore medical college student Namrata Damor, 23, who was found dead at a railway track in Ujjain in January 2012; Jabalpur medical college dean Dr DK Sakalle, 58, who allegedly committed suicide at his official residence on July 4, 2014; governor Ram Naresh Yadav’s son Shailesh, 50, who was found dead in his Lucknow residence on March 25, 2015, and pharmacist Vijay Singh Patel, 35, who was found dead in a hotel owned by a BJP MLA in Kanker (Chhattisgarh) on April 28, 2015.
The STF report did not say under what circumstances the deaths occurred and whether the suspects died before or after they were made accused in the scam. Most of the dead among the 32 were in the 25-30 age group and were either students who had fraudulently secured admissions in medical colleges after paying hefty sums to touts or job aspirants who benefited from manipulation of various recruitment tests. However, leader of the opposition Satyadeo Katare claims that as many as 156 persons have died so far. “These 156 include accused and suspects, their family members, whistleblowers and witnesses,” he told the media. But, he could not furnish a list of the dead.
Given the state government’s marked reluctance to institute probes into the deaths of Dr Sakalle and pharmacist Vijay Singh, it looks highly unlikely that the STF will even try to ascertain the causes of the other 30 deaths. Moreover, it is moving at breakneck speed to wrap up the investigation before the Supreme Court deadline, and therefore, has no time to probe the deaths.
Dr Sakalle, incidentally, had been scrutinising students who got admission through rigging the pre-medical test (PMT) conducted by the examination board. Home minister Babulal Gaur had assured the state assembly that Dr Sakalle’s alleged self-immolation would be probed, but no action followed. As for Vijay Singh’s mysterious death, the state government passed the buck to the Chhattisgath police as the incident occurred in Kanker district of the state. Vijay was arrested in connection with fraud in the police constable test and was on bail. He was an accused in three cases related to the scam and was likely to be booked in three more. He went missing a day before a hearing at a Bhopal court on April 17, and 10 days later, his body was found inside a BJP MLA’s lodge in Kanker.
No probe was initiated into the death of Namrata Damor either, despite post-mortem confirming murder. The Ujjain police, which recovered her body from the railway track, dismissed the case as suicide. Namrata had cracked the PMT in 2009, allegedly with the help of a racketeer who worked for scam kingpin Dr Jagdish Sagar. By the time she died, an internal probe by the medical education department had already found her suspect. The death of the governor’s son was attributed to sudden heart attack.
A senior STF officer said that during interrogations, investigators were alarmed when several accused started naming people who were already dead.
Wide media coverage of the STF report has prompted whistleblowers to reveal more mysterious deaths related to the scam. Gwalior-based whistleblower Ashish Chaturvedi says the STF has not listed the death of medical student Ramendra Singh Bhadoria, 30, who was found hanging at his home in Gwalior on January 15 this year after being booked in the scam a week earlier.
His family members claimed he was being mentally tortured by those involved in the scam to keep quiet. His mother also committed suicide by consuming acid a week later. The Gwalior police claim he committed suicide after a failed love affair. Bhadoria was a 2007 batch student of Gajra Raja Medical College, Gwalior.
In 2009, a four-member committee of the college found him guilty of using unfair means in the PMT and recommended his termination. He was booked along with 16 other students for impersonation and forgery.
Whistleblower Chaturvedi himself has been the target of half-a-dozen assaults on him in Gwalior and Bhopal. He has exp-ressed fear for his life from powerful people for over a year. In a petition to the court in April this year, Chaturvedi alleged that a motorcycle-borne man hit him with a blunt object in Gwalior. He sought security from the central force as he had lost trust in the MP police.
Whistleblowers Prashant Pandey and Dr Anand Rai
Another whistleblower, Dr Anand Rai of Indore, alleges that the mysterious death of medical student Deepak Verma was not included in the STF list. A 2008 batch student of MGM Medical College, Verma died in a road accident in 2010. It occurred days after the state government initiated a probe into the medical college recruitment racket in 2009.
Verma, a resident of Singrauli, was named as a “middleman” by another medical student and an accused, Preetam Baghel. Both were batchmates. Preetam was arrested for arranging impersonators for PMT aspirants.
Rai alleged that Verma was killed in a road accident which took place on Ring Road in Indore at 2 am. “He was hit by a dumper that could not be traced. He succumbed to injuries a day after the accident. I have gone through his medical history,” he said.
Rai, incidentally, was the first man to blow the lid off the scam in July 2013. On his tip-off, the Indore police had arrested eight impersonators from hotels who were to sit for registered PMT-2013 candidates.
The third whistleblower, Prashant Pan-dey, has fled MP, alleging police persecution. A cyber expert, he had for years helped the police crack data from computers of PEB’s chief system analyst Nitin Mahindra.
Later, he antagonized the police by allegedly passing the data to Congress leader Digvijay Singh. On May 8 last, his car was hit by a dumper on the Mhow-Indore road. Pandey escaped unhurt. He later said the accident was a pre-planned conspiracy to get him bumped off. Whistleblowers in the scam have demanded separate investigations into each of the deaths.
The murkiness is only deepening.