Vyapam Scam: Whistle-Blower Claims Threats To Life As MP Govt On The Backfoot After 45 Unexplained Deaths

06/07/2015 2:49 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Chief Minister of the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan (C) poses with his wife Sadhna Singh (L) as they show their inked-fingers after casting their votes in anational elections in the village of Jait, some 70kms from Bhopal on April 24, 2014. India's 814-million-strong electorate is voting in the world's biggest election which is set to sweep the Hindu nationalist opposition to power at a time of low growth, anger about corruption and warnings about religious unrest. AFP PHOTO/STR (Photo credit should read STRDEL/AFP/Getty Images)

A whistle-blower who has been given police cover for life by a local court in the massive admission and recruitment scandal in Madhya Pradesh, said he faced as many as 14 threats to his life and approached officials to increase his security.

Ashish Chaturvedi, a key witness who had named top politicians in Madhya Pradesh as party to the multi-crore Vyapam scam, was given security cover by a special court in Gwalior on May 5. But after 45 unexplained deaths in the case, he told NDTV he feared for his life.

"I will be the next mysterious death," he said.

The social activist was left shaken after his personal security officer allegedly overheard a group of people saying that he would be "cut to pieces if he testified in court against MPPEB scam accused".

He called the police protection provided to him by court a "mockery of security" because a day after the order, his two security officers refused to guard him on grounds that "they cannot pillion ride on a cycle with AK-47 and an Insas rifle", the Times of India reported.

He claimed that he has even been thrashed with his security officers looking on.

Meanwhile, pressure mounted on Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Monday after calls for a CBI probe into the Vyapam scam. Two people — an investigative journalist reporting on the scam and a senior doctor heading part of the investigation — have died mysteriously in two consecutive days, raising the total deaths of persons connected with Vyapam to 45.

On Monday, the body of a 25-year-old trainee officer who got into the police force through an exam conducted by Vyapam was found floating in a lake. Police suspect it to be a case of suicide.

"No one has asked for a CBI probe except for the Congress party," said a visibly flustered Shivraj Chouhan on Monday, while addressing a press conference. "Everyone has faith in the SIT, STF, and none of the families of those who have died have asked for a CBI probe either."

Meanwhile the Supreme Court today agreed to hear a plea seeking MP governor Ram Naresh Yadav's removal. Yadav has been alleged to be involved in the scam, and his son was found dead earlier in March this year.

A bench comprising Chief Justice H L Dattu and Justices Arun Kumar Mishra and Amitava Roy said that it will hear the petition about the Vyapam scam relating to the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB) along with other pleas on the issue on July 9.

The petition, filed by a group of lawyers, have sought removal of Yadav and recording of his statement in the case.

Read: Arun Sharma, Dean Of Jabalpur Medical College, Found Dead In Delhi Hotel

The Vyapam (an acronym for Madhya Pradesh Vyavsayik Pareeksha Mandal) scam is a massive admission and recruitment racket that surfaced in 2009, leading to the arrest of over a hundred people in 2011. Since 2012, a special task force (STF) monitored by the Madhya Pradesh high court is investigating the case, following which the involvement of several politicians and government officials has come to light. As of last month, over 2,000 people have been arrested in connection with the scam, including the state's ex-education minister Laxmikant Sharma and a hundred or so other politicians, several MPPEB officials, bureaucrats, middlemen, students, and their parents.

The STF is expected to submit their second chargesheet in the case on July 15.

Chouhan is unlikely to find support from the Centre, with the government making it clear that they would look for a "fair" probe. As the body count for the scam-related deaths went up, union minister for information and broadcasting Arun Jaitley said, "Since various issues are being raised with regard to the circumstances of his (TV journalist Akshay Singh) death, it would be important that a very fair inquiry is held so that all doubts are put to rest."

Read: Aaj Tak Reporter Covering Vyapam Scam Dies Suddenly In Madhya Pradesh

While investigative journalist Akshay Singh died on Saturday moments after he had finished interviewing the family of a woman connected with the Vyapam scam, Arun Sharma, dean of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Medical College in Jabalpur, was found dead in his Delhi hotel room on Sunday morning.

He was heading a part of the investigation into the Vyapam scam. Following his death, Indian Medical Association Jabalpur president Dr. Sudheer Trivedi too has claimed threat to his life.

Today, the body of trainee sub-inspector, Anamika Sikarwar, was found in the lake adjacent to the Police Training Academy in Sagar district headquarters, City Superintendent of Police (CSP) Gautam Solanki said. Though she had been recruited through Vyapam, she was not a suspected beneficiary of the scam.

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