It’s not just activists, Opposition leaders or whistleblowers who are waiting eagerly for the CBI to start probing the Vyapam scam — they are some accused, too, who claim they were dragged into the mess for no fault of their own.
One of them, a mother of a three-year-old girl, says she had already cleared the minimum cut-off when the state police’s Special Task Force (STF) accused her of getting her marks altered by paying a bribe.
The other, her sister-in-law, says she didn’t even want to qualify when she appeared for a teachers’ recruitment test — without a BEd degree, she wrote the test merely to gain experience.
Then there are two cousins who say they failed to pass their recruitment test but still figure on the list of accused.
According to the STF, however, the names of all four figure on an Excel sheet — it allegedly listed the names of 16 “tainted” candidates — recovered from a top Vyapam official who is now in jail.
They were alleged to have been recommended for jobs by Union Minister Uma Bharti who has denied the charges and has been given a clean chit by investigators.
All of them appeared for a recruitment test in 2011 for the job of contract teachers in government schools — 6.60 lakh candidates appeared for 23 exams conducted by Vyapam that year.
Savita Sahu (28), from Sironj tehsil in Vidisha, has obtained first-division marks since school and secured an impressive 75 per cent marks in 2010 to obtain her in BEd.
Hoping to become a teacher, she says she appeared in the Contract Teacher Group II exam conducted in 2011 by Vyapam, the Hindi acronym for the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board.
The original results showed her as having obtained 79.5 per cent, when the cut-off was 75.
But then, life turned on its head for Savita, when officers of the STF probing the Vyapam case came knocking at her door. She was told that her marksheet had been illegally altered to show 106.12 marks against her name.
“Why would I need more marks? My actual marks were already sufficient to get me this job,” Savita asked.
Over the next months, she was repeatedly summoned to the STF office, over 150 km away in Bhopal, and made an accused in a forgery case and booked under various sections, including 420 and 120 B (criminal conspiracy). Since then, it’s been a series of court hearings for her and husband Lal Singh Sahu, a gram panchayat secretary of Mooda Dharmu village.
Savita’s name figured on an Excel sheet recovered from Vyapam’s Chief System Analyst Nitin Mahindra.
In a December 20, 2013 letter to Uma Bharti, STF DSP Dilraj Singh Baghel noted that Vyapam’s former director and exam controller Pankaj Trivedi had corroborated that the names on that list were recommended by the Union Minister.
Trivedi is currently in jail, too.
“I never went to anyone for recommendation. Why would I? I have scored good marks throughout my life. I belong to a village, and always dreamt of becoming a teacher. But now I have my baby at home and travel to courts every month for hearings. All our money is being spent on court fees. It has ruined our life,” said Savita.
“Someone else committed the forgery, but we have been made scapegoats. Isn’t it possible that the recommendation came for a different roll number, but they increased marks of the other?” asked Savita.
STF officials have defended their action. “Since their names figured on the Excel sheets, we had to interrogate them,” said an officer.
The case of Savita’s sister-in-law Sunita Sahu is more curious. She is also an accused as her marks were allegedly altered in the marksheet.
Sunita, however, said she had no need for a recommendation because she didn’t have a basic degree for the job.”I don’t have a BEd degree. I appeared for the exam only to gain some experience for the future. Even if I had cleared the test, I would not have been eligible to become a teacher without a BEd,” she said.
“Why would I approach powerful people in Bhopal to recommend my wife for a job for which she did not have the qualifying degree?” asked Sunita’s husband Jainarayan Sahu, a junior staffer in the Revenue Department.
In another part of Vidisha, two cousins Santosh Kumar Sharma and Rameshwar Dayal Sharma have similar complaints.
Both are farmers in Sumerpur village and appeared for Contract Teacher Group II exam in 2011. “We hardly go out of our village,” said Santosh, adding that he had no idea how their names figured on Mahindra’s Excel sheets allegedly as nominees of Bharti.