The probe by the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) into the state-wide dummy candidate racket has unearthed the identities of at least 25 more government servants who were selected through the racket, taking the number of such government employees to 75.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the CID, which is probing the case, has arrested 10 persons who allegedly operated the racket. The arrested accused include alleged kingpin Prabodh Rathod, a dismissed government employee from Nanded, impersonators including two police officers of assistant inspector rank, a CID handwriting expert and a policeman who was part of the initial probe into the racket.
The SIT, which is investigating recruitments done via the racket between 2010 and 2016, has filed three chargesheets in the case and is likely to arrest more government officials in the coming days. Other than the 10 racketeers, it has also arrested 23 government servants who were recruited through the racket. These include education officers, tribal development officers, clerks, engineering officers, irrigation inspectors and officers from the state secretariat.
However, the probe team suspects that as many as 700 dummy candidates had appeared for recruitment exams across the state between 2010 and 2016.
“Till over a month ago, we had a list of 50 government servants of various ranks who were recruited through the racket. Recently, we have started receiving additional information from various sources about people who have been recruited through the same racket. After primary verification, we have identified 25 more government officials, taking the number to 75. These recruitments took place at various places, but through the same racket,” said a senior CID officer.
In another development in the case, a fresh FIR was filed at the Deccan police station in June in connection with a different kind of fraud, allegedly perpetrated by racketeers of the same scam.
“An examination for the post of Talathi was held in Pune in 2011. For the exam, a candidate had paid money to the racketeers. One of the racketeers, Baliram Bhatlondhe, enrolled himself with a name very similar to the name of the candidate and ensured his seat was in front of that of the candidate, so that the latter could copy the racketeer’s answers. An FIR was registered at Deccan police station after the collector’s office was informed about the racket,” said a police officer.
The FIR will part of the ongoing CID probe, said officials.
The impersonation cases were unearthed by a 28-year old political science graduate, Yogesh Jadhav from Nanded, who had filed several Right to Information (RTI) applications. Jadhav had started taking a closer look at the cases when he got to know that several persons from his area had sold or mortgaged their ancestral land or houses to pay a middleman, in order to get selected for government jobs.
In April last year, the state government had formed the SIT after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis intervened in the matter. The SIT was given the mandate to probe cases involving dummy candidates, including many in Pune.
The chargesheets filed by the SIT had revealed how the racketeers had even bribed Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) officials to avoid inquiry, as well as paid off handwriting experts to mislead the probe, even after police investigations began into the racket.
Several recruitments in departments such as police, social welfare, government secretariat, agriculture and women and child development are now under the SIT’s scanner. For each selected candidate, the racketeers were paid anywhere between Rs 5 to 10 lakh and a significant chunk of the money went to the impersonators.