In a major breakthrough, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the State Criminal Investigation Department (CID), which is probing a statewide racket of dummy candidates appearing for government recruitment exams, has arrested the alleged kingpin, 36-year-old Pramod Rathod.
In April, the state government had formed a SIT after direct intervention from Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, and the team was given the mandate to probe almost 50 cases registered across Maharashtra, including 10 in Pune. Over 400 dummy candidates are suspected to have appeared in the last two years in government recruitment exams.
Several recruitments in departments such as police, social welfare, government secretariat, agriculture and women and child development are now under the SIT’s scanner. The primary findings and investigation in these cases had revealed the involvement of Rathod, a suspended government employee from Nanded, said police. While Rathod is the prime accused, police also suspect the involvement of other serving government officials.
Shankar Kengar, superintendent of police with the CID’s Aurangabad unit, told The Indian Express, “We arrested Rathod, who is the prime suspect, from his native village Mandvi in Kinwat taluka of Nanded on Monday evening. He was produced before the court on Tuesday and remanded in police custody till May 29. We have told the court that we want to probe the modus operandi of the racketeers, search for the dummy candidates, as well as those who were selected in the exams, and the money trail. There would be more arrests…”
A police team had laid a trap in Mandvi, after receiving a tip-off that Rathod was going to visit his village after a death in the family, said sources. “Rathod, a Class III government employee, had come under the radar of the Anti-Corruption Bureau after he amassed a huge amount of wealth and bought several properties. He was suspended after an inquiry. He had been on the run since the cases were registered… last year. He is suspected to have been helped by many serving government employees…,” said a police officer from Mandvi police station.
The Indian Express was the first to report about these cases, and the suspected state-wide racket, in August last year.
Yogesh Jadhav, a 27-year-old civil services aspirant from Nanded, had unearthed a series of such cases — when a dummy candidate appeared for a recruitment exam — by filing several Right to Information (RTI) applications.
Jadhav and Nanded-based activist Shobha Waghmare had met Chief Minister Fadnavis in March, and briefed him about these cases, after which the CM had ordered the formation of the SIT. Speaking to The Indian Express, Jadhav said on Tuesday, “This is an important breakthrough in the probe. I hope that this leads to more clues about those who have fraudulently been selected, so that genuine candidates have a chance….”