Tag Archives: Vyapam Scam

Vyapam: India’s deadly medical school exam scandal

A medical school admission examinations scandal in India has turned into a veritable whodunit with thousands of arrests, mysterious deaths and the suspected involvement of top politicians and bureaucrats. Soutik Biswas travelled to Madhya Pradesh to investigate.

The call came late in the afternoon when he was taking some foreign journalists to meet victims of clinical trials near the central city of Indore.

It was 13 July 2013, six days after the local police had caught half a dozen students from a city hotel who they suspected were plotting to rig medical school exams.

Dr Anand Rai, a medical officer himself, has the reputation of being a feisty – if sometimes, reckless – whistle-blower, so he was helping the police with intelligence about how medical school exams were being rigged in Madhya Pradesh.

“There was a man on the line threatening to kill me. He said don’t do this job any more,” says Dr Rai, 38. The man rang off.

Two minutes later, the man called again. “Don’t you give this number to the police. You will pay for it, if you do,” he said, before hanging up.

Highest bidder

Dr Rai promptly handed over the number to the police, who tracked the call to Mumbai. A local police team went to Mumbai and arrested the caller.

The man, an assistant professor in a private medical college, turned out to be the mastermind of what has now turned out to be one of India’s biggest scandals, involving the rigging of mainly medical school admissions. He told investigators that Vyapam officials were complicit in the scandal. Vyapam is the Hindi acronym for anoffice that conducts more than 50 examinations for government jobs and medical school admissions in Madhya Pradesh.

How examinations were rigged:

  • Candidates hire impersonators – medical students from neighbouring states – who write their exam. Impersonators even appear for physical education tests.
  • Candidates pay ‘scorers’ – again medical students themselves – who sit close to them during the examination and help them cheat.
  • Question papers are leaked and sold to candidates.
  • Answer sheets are rigged and higher marks given to the candidate.
  • Unfinished answer sheets are filled up later by teachers involved in the scam.

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Vyapam scam: Media demand ‘fair probe’ in Madhya Pradesh deaths

Media in India have urged the government in the central state of Madhya Pradesh to hold a fair probe into the alleged irregularities in government jobs and admissions in educational institutions.

The government ordered an investigation into the allegations in 2013 when details emerged that “undeserving” candidates were repeatedly given admissions in medical and engineering colleges, and also in jobs.

Millions of students work hard every year to clear an exam that ensures them a place in good colleges run by state governments and also private organisations.

But media reports say that some find other means, like paying bribes or cheating, to get a place after they fail to clear the intensely competitive exam.

Opposition parties have blamed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for not holding a fair probe into the scam which, they say, has been going on since 2007.

The BJP, however, said it was confident the authorities were investigating the allegations in a fair manner.

The scam – widely known as Vyapam – has been making headlines since 2013, but the death of an investigative reporter in the state on Saturday has brought the media’s spotlight back on the case.

Newspapers and TV channels are giving wall-to-wall coverage to Akshay Singh’s death.

He was visiting the state to investigate the scam for a national news channel.

The India Today group, Singh’s employers, has demanded a probe.

“The circumstances of the untimely death of TV Today journalist Akshay Singh merits a full, fair and independent inquiry,” the group said in a statement.

‘Mystery deaths’

Officials in the state say that at least 30 people linked with the scam have died since the start of the investigation in 2013.

However, the main opposition Congress party says more than 150 people have died.

Several mystery deaths have prompted media outlets to ask for a fair investigation.

The Deccan Herald says the scam is “an indication that the state’s institutions have degenerated and are rotten beyond belief”.

“The sheer ruthlessness that underlies the mystery deaths is probably even beyond what a seasoned crime writer can visualise. And, the most shocking part is that the Madhya Pradesh government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan does not seem to be accountable to anyone,” it says in an editorial.

The paper urges the Central Bureau of Investigation, India’s federal investigative agency, to step in to “enable a fair investigation which needs to be monitored by the Supreme Court”.

It adds that the scam “makes a complete mockery of the principle of fairness, honesty and justice – without which institutions cannot survive”.

Hindi newspaper Jansatta finds it “astonishing” that Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has refused to acknowledge these deaths as “suspicious”.

It appear that witnesses are being killed “to shield some big names”, the paper adds.

Dainik Jagaran, another Hindi daily, urges the federal government to set up strict rules and monitoring systems in states to avoid such scams.

Twitter anger

Several Twitter users, including senior journalists, have also expressed their anger over these deaths.

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