Madhya Pradesh rocked by yet another recruitment exam scam
There is widespread anger in Madhya Pradesh over what critics say is brazen corruption in the examination conducted to recruit patwaris — officials who maintain land records and collect taxes. Protests have erupted in more than 20 cities with the uncovering of some irregularities.
For instance, seven of the 10 toppers were from one examination centre, which happened to be a college run by a BJP MLA. The NRI College of Engineering in Gwalior is owned by BJP’s Sanjeev Kumar Kushwaha from Bhind.
The patwari exam was conducted from March 15 to April 26, with a whopping 12.79 lakh applicants. Finally, 9.78 lakh candidates wrote the test. Of this, 9,000 made it to the merit list. The results were announced on June 30. On July 10, the top 10 candidates were named, triggering disputes and controversies.
Activists and opposition leaders say a lot of irregularities have been found in the divyang (handicapped) quota, which accounted for 6 per cent of the overall seats.
In Jaura Tehsil of Morena district, 21 candidates qualified for the recruitment exam. Curiously, of these, 15 share the surname ‘Tyagi’, and all are said to suffer from hearing disabilities. Some of the students were found to have submitted “physically fit” certificates in January for the forest guard test but claimed to be disabled for the patwari exam.
Advocate Umesh Bohre filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Gwalior High Court, seeking a probe into all government recruitments in the disabled category from 2003 to 2023. Bohre told The Federal that the Chambal region (comprising Gwalior, Morena and Bhind districts) is a hub for creating fake certificates against generous bribes.
He alleged that fraudulent handicapped certificates were being produced through the office of the Chief Medical and Health Officer in Morena. In response to the PIL, the High Court ordered an inquiry to be conducted by the Morena Collector.
Some students also submitted fake certificates claiming experience to secure patwari jobs. For instance, Kapil Gautam was allocated a position that required a minimum of five years of experience as a samvida (temporary) worker. He is just 19 years old.
When The Federal contacted Gautam, he declined to comment.
Vishal Singh Chauhan, a student from Singrauli, expressed disgust over the happenings. “I have been preparing for government exams since 2016. As students, we invest a considerable amount of money in coaching classes. Before the exams, I spent 9-10 hours daily in the library. My sole passion is to crack any government exam,” he told The Federal.
He demanded that the government thoroughly investigate all the irregularities and take action not only against the erring students but also against colluding officials and political leaders. He also wanted all the exams to be conducted in a single shift to stamp out possible corruption and avoid the process of normalisation.
Normalisation is a method used to modify scores to accommodate variations in the difficulty levels of different examination sets.
Suneel Chaudhary, a Dalit activist from Madhya Pradesh, said: “When scams happen, it is the Dalits, tribals and backward classes that are impacted the most. The wealthy manage to secure government jobs through scams. The less privileged spend precious years of their lives just preparing for these exams.”
In response to protests by students regarding irregularities in the patwari exam, the Madhya Pradesh government appointed retired High Court judge Rajendra Kumar Verma to conduct an investigation. He will submit a report by August 31.
However, the selected students filed a petition in the Jabalpur High Court, challenging the stay on the recruitment process placed by the Chief Minister.
On July 31, the court issued notices not only to the government but also to the selection board and sought a reply within three weeks. Several students were unhappy with the ban on recruitment. Shivranjan Gite from Mandala argued: “I have been preparing for the government exam for eight years. So far, I have written 85 exams. This is the first time I got selected for a government job.”
He agreed that there might be ‘some’ irregularities but argued that cancelling the entire recruitment process would be unfair to those already selected.
The Vyapam scam was one of the biggest scams in India. Over 2,000 people have been arrested in connection with this scam, where organised rackets allegedly rigged exams conducted by the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board for admission and recruitment to various courses and government jobs.
More than 50 people including teachers, politicians, students, whistle-blowers and journalists, with direct or indirect connections to the scam, have died in mysterious circumstances.
After the Vyapam scam came to light, the state government changed the name of the board to the Professional Examination Board (PEB) and later to the Employee Selection Board (ESB).
Ranjeet Jat, National Core Committee Member of the National Educated Youth Union, said every single exam conducted by Vyapam (now MPESB) in the last few years showed some irregularities. “Just changing the name will not put an end to corruption,” said Jat.