VYAPAM IS BEYOND POLITICIANS
Shrill noises on nightly television notwithstanding, Congress leaders should be the last to bang on and on about the Vyapam scam. For, such scams have gone on all over the country, especially in the BIMARU states, for as long as we can recall. Indeed, it might be sobering for noise-makers like Digvijaya Singh to know that the main whistleblower in the Vyapam scam itself had first learnt about the fraudulent pre-med exams way back in the early 1990s. So what is new, Mr Singh?
Yes, the most tragic part of Vyapam is the alleged unnatural deaths associated with it. This is really disturbing. Hopefully, the CBI will accord utmost urgency to apprehend the death-dispensers, if any, as also to ensure that no person remotely connected with the scam meets such a deadly end. This is the least that is expected of the apex investigating agency.
Contrary to the obsession of the TV anchors and of desperate Congress leaders groping for relevance, the CBI might come a cropper if it confines its search for the alleged killers only to politicians, ruling or Opposition. For every one of the thousands who rustled up tens of lakhs of rupees for the crooks to get on the list of successful examinees, or for employment in government jobs, has a huge personal stake in ensuring that the truth does not come out.
It is significant that some of the suspect Vyapam fatalities are of those who were engaged in identifying its beneficiaries. They may now be on the verge of completing their MBBS courses or might already be working as doctors in private or public hospitals. Having sold the family silver to thus buy a seat in a medical college, they cannot be without a motive to keep the truth under wraps. Also, not all Vyapam deaths occurred in Madhya Pradesh. Several died outside. The mafia behind the scam clearly has a much wider reach.
Notably, beneficiaries of the scam are spread over a number of states. Boys from the badlands of UP too sought to become doctors using the services of the scamsters. The number of those who gamed the system is said to be over 7,000. Nearly 2,000 of them are already in prison. The needle of suspicion must point towards the other 5,000-odd who are still out, especially when punishment can stretch to a life in jail. In short, the CBI would get nowhere if it keeps its focus restricted to a handful of politicians, bureaucrats, police officers, etc.
Now, let us disabuse the public of the impression that what has happened in Madhya Pradesh is extraordinary. It is not. Only so many Vyapam-linked deaths are peculiar to Vyapam. But admission-and-employment scams are dime a dozen. Remember the recent photograph of a multi-storey exam centre in Bihar, which revealed how the systematic copying and impersonation racket flourished in the state? Right now in Delhi you have reports about admissions in schools being rigged through the quota of the economically weaker sections.
Old-timers would recall how P.S. Bhinder as commissioner of the Delhi Police in the early 1980s had rigged the recruitment of constables by appointing nearly 400 of them from his wife's parliamentary constituency of Gurdaspur in Punjab. He could do this because along with an equally bent IAS officer, Navin Chawla, the two had terrorised Delhi during the Emergency, they being the favourites of Indira Gandhi and her wayward son Sanjay.
The point is that in a society where all public goods are in short supply, opportunists will try and rig the system. Also, ordinary people are not blameless, either. They want their netas to game the system for their children. Those politicians who refuse to bend the system invariably incur the wrath of their constituents. Jobs for the boys, therefore, is the painful duty of every politician who seeks popularity.
LOW POLITICS IN ELITE BABU CLUB
Politicians are blamed for all that ails the society, but everyone at one level or the other is responsible. For proof, go no further than the capital's elite Gymkhana Club. The century-old gentlemen's club located in the heart of Lutyens' Delhi, literally a stone's throw away from the Prime Minister's House, is not immune from the low-level shenanigans that are now the bane of all such places. Not unlike elections for Assembly or Lok Sabha, Gymkhana elections too entail a lot of expense and manoeuvering.
Now that a fresh election for the president and a new managing committee is approaching, rival groups have begun the usual fireworks, shooting off emails questioning the claim of a likely contestant to call himself a brigadier or a verbal campaign to tarnish the image of another possible candidate. Worse, the longstanding convention whereby members of the civilian and armed forces took turns to contest for presidentship stands violated. There is now discord not only between members of the three armed forces but also on yielding to the civilian members for presidentship every other term. The unwritten agreement was broken by a retired Army chief, who despite being a serving Governor of a north-eastern state, insisted on clinging to the club president's post.
Incidentally, Bollywood villain and a BJP member of the Lok Sabha, Shatrughan Sinha, has become a member of Gymkhana in the "eminent persons" category. Several years ago, BJP veteran L.K. Advani had become a member in the regular course. Asked to attend the customary "at home", where the managing committee assesses the suitability of a prospective member over drinks and dinner, Advani caused quite a flutter in the imperial confines of the club house by refusing to don the regulation trousers and shirt for such a rendezvous. Ultimately, the club relented. Advani came in his regular dhoti-kurta. By the way, new applicants have to wait more than 35 years for membership. And when finally admitted, they have to cough up nearly Rs 5 lakh as admission fees.
Lastly, a little nugget from the club notice board which speaks of its fall and decline. It reads: "Pool red eye is not caused by chlorine in the water but by urine. Members have been requested to cooperate as also to educate their kids who use the club swimming pool." Amen.
BREAKING THE CARDINAL RULE
There is an unwritten rule that bars retired spymasters from writing memoirs. And if they still insist, it is more or less mandatory for these to be vetted by the authorities before publication. To that extent, former RAW chief A.S. Dulat violated the hoary rule in his recently released book, Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years. For instance, to assert that all parties with a stake in Kashmir took money from the Indian intelligence agencies, even if true, ought not to have found confirmation from the pen of a man who besides being the former RAW chief was also Prime Minister Vajpayee's main interlocutor for talks with the Kashmir separatists.
Again, to say that Vajpayee broke his promise to make Farooq Abdullah Vice-President is impolitic, to say the least. Now Dulat as a long-time Intelligence Bureau man in Srinagar might have struck a very convivial friendship with Abdullah, given their mutual fondness for the good life, including the mandatory evening tipple, but Abdullah was never known for his administrative acumen or for his integrity.
A schoolmaster's son, Farooq nonetheless had come into big money and often conducted himself as a rich playboy. But that is not the point. Dulat's claim that Vajpayee offered him vice-presidentship cannot be independently verified. For, after his stroke Vajpayee is unable to speak, while his principal secretary, Brajesh Mishra is dead. Incidentally, Dulat is a big player in the Gymkhana Club politics and can be often seen holding court there.