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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 29 New Delhi July 11, 2015

Far More Ominous

Saturday 11 July 2015, by SC


The Times of India has twice in the past few days editorially brought into focus the seriousness of the Vyapam scam that has rocked not just the Madhya Pradesh Government headed by Shivraj Singh Chouhan but the Narendra Modi Government at the Centre and the entire BJP leadership at the national level as well. On July 7 the headline of the daily‘s editorial read: “Chouhan’s Shame: Vyapam is becoming BJP’s equivalent of 2G scam, Centre must intervene for a serious investigation”. And the caption of today’s editorial in the publication was equally, if not more, direct: “Supreme Intervention: Vyapam scam threatens to unravel this government’s reputation as effectively as 2G scam did for UPA-II”.

The first editorial (on July 7) underlined something which has been agitating the minds of several persons endowed with objectivity and holding impartial opinions in such matters. “As a matter of fact,” it noted, “UPA-era mega-scams such as 2G and Coalgate didn’t see mysterious deaths like Vyapam. The latter is turning out to be far more sinister, undermining Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of ensuring corruption-free governance.” In the circumstances it called for an immediate intervention on the part of the Centre.

On July 7 with two more deaths (relating to the admission and recruitment scam in the State) having been reported, the Vyapam death toll rose to 48. Today the figure has touched 49. The alleged elimination of witnesses and accused in the scam continues unabated. The investigation began in 2013; it has now been revealed that officers of the State’s professional exam board (or Vyapam) were rigging different tests for medical aspirants, public constables, contractual teachers and other government employees for almost a decade. As the number of deaths relating to this scam rises with the passage of time, there is now a deeprooted suspicion that the persons killed are victims of powerful vested interests linked to the State authorities. Such a suspicion can be allayed only from the results of a thorough CBI probe carried out under the supervision of the Supreme Court.

After much procrastination the Madhya Pradesh CM has finally allowed a CBI investigation. But that in itself is not enough. Influential sections of the media have categtorically pointed out that the investigation must be supervised by the SC.

Today’s TOI editorial makes another valid point:

In the absence of assured safety, it is no surprise that in all too many sensitive cases, witnesses turn hostile or retract their testimony. The whistleblowers’ protection Act was created to provide necessary shields to those who disclose corrupt or illegal actions by public officials. It is being unconscionably diluted by this government. The Vyapam scam and its dramatic serial deaths is an object lesson in why this law is so important.

While discussing Vyapam one must not forget the larger picture: as seniour journalist Neerja Chowdhury has incisively brought out in an edit-page piece in the TOI,

Vyapam has given an otherwise down and out Opposition yet another stick to beat the BJP with. But its gravity goes beyond that. Big time money scams we have seen. But a killer sscam? That is a new low for our polity.

The VVIPs on the dock in Lalitgate (Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje) and Vyapam scam (Shivraj Singh Chouhan) have, by all indications, decided to brazen out the Opposition onslaught even if that means a washout of the monsoon session of Parliament. As noted progressive film-maker Anand Patwardhan, an arch opponent of saffronisation of the society by the majoritarian communalists, has emphasised,

This is not Congress rule where despite massive corruption, the government was somewhat vulnerable to public pressure.

The Sangh Parivar’s made of different mettle. As you can gauge from the Vasundhara Raje and Sushma Swaraj episodes, they have decided to brazen out anything and everything, no matter what the consequences.

This vital difference between the present and previous ruling dispensations should not be lost sight of. [This is also reflected in the revelation of the Special Public Prosecutor in the Malegaon explosion (that took place in 2008) case, Rohini Salian: she had been pressurised by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to go soft on the accused in that incident; they all belonged to Hindu communal outfits.]

All this magnifies the far more ominous nature of the current rulers’ activities and the kind of threat these pose to our polity and the Constitution.

July 9 S.C.

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