Monalisa Das| The News Minute| June 25, 2014| 1.00 pm IST
The Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) scam that hit headlines last year is once again in the news. And this time embroiled in it is Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan. The Congress has alleged that the CM’s family members were involved in the Pre medical entrance test (PMT) scam from which they are said to have heavily benefited.
At least 1045 admissions secured through alleged unfair means, between 2009 and 2013, have been cancelled so far in several of the state’s medical colleges.
Numerous high-profile officers, in whose connivance the scam was operating, have been arrested, including MPPEB’s former exam controller Pankaj Trivedi, MPPEB’s system analysts Nitin Mahendra and Ajay Sen and state PMT’s examination in-charge CK Mishra. Former state technical education minister and BJP leader Laxmikant Sharma was also arrested by Special Task Force (STF) on June 15 for his alleged involvement in the contractual teachers recruitment scam.
Dr. Anand Rai, the crucial whistleblowers in the scam, spoke to The News Minute discussing the national media’s limited coverage on the issue and what he calls a weak Whistleblowers’ Protection Act in India.
Following are excerpts from the interview.
For how long has this scam been going on?
This has been going for at least 10 years now. The first case of impersonation was brought to light in 2004 in Khandwa district. Most of the cases are still running in courts.
Could you explain how the PMT scams works?
The modus operandi is usually executed in the following ways.
Impersonation: In this, all the detail is in the admit card, including name, date of birth, and roll numbers, of the candidate who is applying for the seat. However, the photograph is of the impersonator. An impersonator is one who writes an exam on behalf of someone else. In such cases, they are brilliant students who can score very high marks. The concerned officers on the examination board change the photograph back to that of the original candidate after the exam. The student ends up passing an exam which they never appeared for, also getting a seat. The impersonators are paid a hefty amount for securing the seat.
Engine and bogie system: A person is fixed by people on the board whose work is like that of an engine. He/She is seated strategically between two other candidates who want a seat. The engine helps them copy from his/her own paper. The examiners are usually bribed to fix the seating arrangements.
OMR sheets: The select candidates are advised to leave their answer sheets blank. They are randomly given high percentages after the exam. Concerned authorities of the board then file an RTI demanding to view those exact answer sheets. They then fill in the answers in the OMR booklet according to the marks they have already been given. This is done so that if someone were to ever check those answer sheets, there would not be any loop holes that could give them away. This is a violation of the RTI Act. '
Answer sheets too have been leaked just prior to the exam date. In 2009, when I had complained against such a leak, officials set a new question paper and said that the previous one was just a guess paper. In another case the police acted more efficiently. RK Shivhare, a DIG (Deputy Inspector General), who has now been arrested, had got his daughter and son-in-law admitted in Pre-PG 2012, where they secured the fifth and seventh position respectively. He too had leaked the answer key for his kin.
So, is this scam unique to Madhya Pradesh?
These scams are part of an inter-state racket. For example, take the case of the COMEDK scam. Boys from Madhya Pradesh were sent as dummies to Karnataka to block seats, which the management later sold for crores. This is rampant in private colleges.
If this has been happening for so long, why did it come to light so late?
The national media didn’t have any interest in the story, especially English media. Only regional Hindi media reported the story somewhat extensively.
Why do you think the national media ignored this issue or gave it limited coverage?
Most of them in the state work on the whims of the rich and powerful. They too have been bribed to keep shut.
Has there been any change in the way of investigation now?
Around 45 Public Interest Litigation (PIL) have been filed in courts. The case has been given to Special Task Force (STF). The investigation has picked up speed after all this. The police now seem to be working honestly.
How did you get into this?
I have seen this kind of corruption in the whole system. We worked so hard, and it was still very difficult to get a rank. And these people gave ranks to random students by taking bribes. There is no value of hard work. This sort of work and activism needs a lot of courage, not possible for everybody. I decided to take a stand and speak up.
Have you ever been threatened by those you were speaking against?
Of course. All the time. Politicians, criminals; these are the kind of people who are part of the scam. They are very powerful people. I regularly get threat calls. Contract killers were also hired by some to shut my mouth.
Last year, I approached the court asking for security cover. They said they’d provide me with round the clock protection, but I had to pay Rs 50,000 per month to the government. My salary at the time was Rs 38,000. How did they expect me to pay such a high amount for my security? Considering what I was doing was in the benefit of the government. The Whistle blower Protection Act is just for name sake. The ground reality is very different.
I now have been provided with a guard, but I cannot say how helpful that is.
In August 2010, when I was working to behind exposing the frauds in clinical trials, I was terminated from my job. There is tremendous pressure when you work on such sensitive matters. I am an ophthalmologist, but I cannot practice it for now. I work as a medical officer at present.