The Hans India: Guwahati: Tuesday, April 11, 2017.
The very purpose of the RTI Act is to empower a citizen to question the inaction in the form of seeking information. It is clear from his applications and representations that something is seriously wrong and a kind of mini “Vyapam” scandal might have happened in the public authority. The Commission is surprised to know that no action was initiated to probe this Munnabhai filmy type of impersonation scandal in spite of detailed RTI requests along with relevant copies in at least 11 cases.
Over 2,000 people have been arrested in connection with the Vyapam scam, which is an admission and recruitment scam involving politicians, senior officials and businessmen in Madhya Pradesh, facilitated by thousands of educated persons receiving money to impersonate to write employment-selection-examination for some others.
The Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB), popularly known by its Hindi acronym Vyapam (Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal), is a self-financed and autonomous body incorporated by the state government responsible for conducting several entrance tests in the state.
These entrance exams are held for recruitment in government jobs and admissions in educational institutes of the state. The multi-crore rupee scam involved a collusion of undeserving candidates who bribed politicians and MPPEB officials through middlemen to get high ranks in these entrance tests.
Police say scamsters employed imposters to write papers, manipulate sitting arrangements and even supply forged answer sheets by bribing officials between 2012 and 2013. Thousands of candidates selected through this scandalous process are working in various departments of Madhya Pradesh, seriously affecting the efficiency of the government work.
The irregularities have snowballed into a massive multi-layered scam that has claimed the lives of 25 whistleblowers, accused and witnesses with others saying they received death threats as the top leaders find themselves embroiled in the scandal. Unofficial reports put the toll at 41.
In response to the demand of resignation by several opposition parties, the CBI said: “CBI wishes to reiterate that the investigation is still continuing in Vyapam-related cases and has not been finalised. Any news report indicating that any conclusion has been reached during investigation is speculative and presumptuous and hence, is strongly denied.”
The Congress party alleged many high profile persons including Governor Ram Naresh Yadav’s son Shailesh Yadav, Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to the Governor, Dhanraj Yadav, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s OSD Prem Prasad, former Higher Education Minister Laxmikant Sharma and his OSD OP Shukla, Vyapam Controller Pankaj Trivedi, Vyapam Chief System Analyst Nitin Mahindra and several others in the FIRs related to the scam.
This is current status of mysterious impersonation scam that rattled the administration of a big northern state in India. There are several such scams, small in size, one of which is exposed by a series of RTI applications. Here is an example.
Impersonation scam in ESIC
Harish Dhingra sought copies of admit card and attendance sheet of Nityanand, for appearing in an examination conducted by ESIC (Employee State Insurance Corporation) or its authorised agency for employment as LDC or UDC in ESIC. He also demanded the number of marks obtained by Nityanand in computer skills test and minimum qualifying marks. The CPIO in his reply dated 09.03.2016 informed the appellant that Nityanand was not selected for the post of UDC. Unsatisfied, the appellant approached the Commission.
Explaining the background of the demand for information, he alleged that there is a scandal behind the test for selection of LDCs conducted at Faridabad by ESIC on 20th September, 2009. The appellant told the Commission the following:
“The undersigned was shocked to find that signatures on admit card of & Attendance Sheet of abovementioned successful candidates in written test, who were appointed as LDC in the said exams are quite different to the signatures of persons who appeared for said examination on 20th September 2009.
To a lay man like undersigned who is not a handwriting expert the difference is quite evident. It is evident that abovementioned candidates who applied and were appointed LDC in ESIC were not the ones who appeared for examination. It was a la Munna Bhai MBBS (Hindi Film) movement.
The undersigned also got signatures of admit card & signatures of said candidates in Attendance Sheet of Computer Skill Test under RTI Act, 2005 and that too were different meaning thereby that here in Computer Skill test also people who were appointed as LDC in the said test were not the ones who took Computer test. Here again it was a la Munna Bhai (Hindi Film) movement. (He gave eight names who signatures did not tally.)
It is quite evident that at-least eight successful candidates who were appointed LDC in ESIC & later may have been promoted to UDC etc etc got the appointment through illegal unfair & unfair & mala-fide means.
It is prayed that through investigation may be carried out to know the truth in undersigned above submissions & if found true then appropriate action be taken against all those responsible in the sordid Scam.
It is also pertinent to mention here that this is only tip of iceberg; the undersigned has sought information about Social Security Officer (also known as ESIC Inspector) of Delhi region and shall be complaining with all relevant details in due course of time.”
Though the CPIO of the Employees State Insurance Corporation provided documents, but it could not provide the thumb impression of the candidates because they were not procured at the time of the examination.
Dhingra alleged though the information provided ‘as available’, it has not taken into cognisance the serious scandal pointed out in his various RTI applications. The very purpose of the RTI Act is to empower a citizen to question the inaction in the form of seeking information.
It is clear from his applications and representations that something is seriously wrong and a kind of mini “Vyapam” scandal might have happened in the public authority. The Commission is surprised to know that no action was initiated to probe this Munnabhai filmy type of impersonation scandal in spite of detailed RTI requests along with relevant copies in at least 11 cases.
He explained the size of possible scam alleging that around 800 candidates were appointed to various posts by conducting different examinations at different regional offices of the public authority, and he suspects hundreds of impersonations.
He also claimed that he had repeatedly represented this matter to various authorities, but there was no response. It is not just the issue of ineligible candidates being appointed, but the problem of ineligible candidates working in ESIC for many years, which will adversely affect the performance of the duties of the employees that might result in en masse violation of rights of workers.
He presented various papers he obtained through different RTI applications to explain to the Commission that eight members impersonated and wrote examination for other candidates and helped ineligible candidates secure employment wrongfully. He expressed confidence that he could prove this allegation and also stated that if this is probed further, it could reveal a scandal of impersonated selections.
His complaint is that there was no action at all on his comprehensive complaint along with relevant documents to various authorities including the Vigilance Officer of the ESI Corporation.
It is surprising that the ESI Corporation could not discover such a serious issue of impersonation from the documents submitted by the applicant and the files available with their own office. There is a huge public interest in the batch of RTI applications filed by the appellant. There is an urgent need to probe into this impersonation scandal with required speed to prevent inefficient and ineligible candidates violating rights of the labour.
Order of CIC
The Central Information Commission directed the public authority headed by Director General to consider the RTI applications of the appellant and this appeal as formal complaint and inform him and the Commission, the action taken on this complaint within two months. The office of this Commission is directed to mark a copy to the Hon’ble Minister for Labour and Employment, and Principal Secretary of the Ministry, along with the copy of the complaint filed by the appellant for necessary and immediate action. (Based on decision in Harinder Dhingra v. PIO, ESIC, Faridabad CIC/BS/A/2016/001489 on 23.3.2017)