ON March 25, India woke up to probably the most high-profile death so far of an accused linked to the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh. Found dead on the floor of a room in a bungalow in Lucknow was Shailesh Yadav, a businessman and son of MP Governor Ram Naresh Yadav.
The death sparked a political furore with the ruling BJP and the Opposition Congress trading charges related to Shailesh’s alleged role as a facilitator in the scam related to rigging the MP government’s admissions and recruitment tests — there was even speculation that he may have been poisoned.
Today, the Governor’s family says they are sure that Shailesh died a “natural death” caused by “brain haemorrhage” and that they have no complaints.
Yet, his name continues to figure on the MP government’s list of 25 deaths of accused “related” to the scam along with other lesser-known faces, such as those of Vikas Pandey, a lawyer who ran a coaching institute, and Anand Singh Yadav, an MBBS student.
When contacted by The Indian Express, their families said they did not suspect any foul play, either — Yadav’s family said they had even waived off a postmortem.
From a devastated brother to a sister waiting to get married, they just wanted the ordeal to end.
Shailesh Yadav, 50
Cause of death: Brain haemorrhage
According to Shailesh’s wife Manjari, he showed no signs of discomfort before going to sleep the previous night after dinner at their bungalow in Lucknow, which had been allotted to his father who was a former UP CM.
The next morning, she found him lying dead on the floor of his room, Manjari told police.
Within hours of the death being announced, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and several political leaders, including Lucknow MLA Rita Bahuguna Joshi, visited the family to convey their condolences.
“His death was natural, he died due to brain haemorrhage. We do no suspect anybody,” said Kamlesh Yadav, Shailesh’s elder brother, who stays with his father at the Governor’s residence in Bhopal along with his other brother Ajai Yadav.
“He was a diabetic. He had food at night and went to sleep. We came to know about his death around 6 am. He died of brain haemorrhage,” said Champa, wife of Kamlesh Yadav.
Staff at Shailesh’s residence told police that he fell ill and died the previous night.
“He was a diabetic and had not been keeping well for many days. His condition deteriorated and he died in the night. We do not know what exactly happened but a doctor was called and he declared him dead,” said Amit Pandey, a domestic help.
Suresh Chandra Katiyar, Station Officer, Gautam Palli, said that a postmortem conducted on Shailesh, based on his wife’s statement and orders from CM Akhilesh Yadav, “could not ascertain any cause of death”.
“The viscera and heart were examined and no suspicious chemical was found in them either,” Katiyar said, adding that no one from Madhya Pradesh police contacted them in this regard.
MP Police linked Shailesh to the Vyapam scam when they were told by another accused, Veerpal Singh, that he had allegedly paid Shailesh Rs 3 lakh in cash to ensure that 10 candidates from Bhind cleared the qualification test for contractual teachers.
Apart from his wife, Shailesh, who ran various businesses including a petrol pump, left behind two sons — one in Class 7 and the other pursuing an MTech degree.
Asked how Shailesh’s death had affected the family, Kamlesh Yadav said: “I would not like to reopen that chapter because it hurts.”
Vikas Pandey, 35
Cause of death: Brain haemorrhage
Vikas Pandey had a law degree from a college in Allahabad and had put up a nameplate outside his home in Allahabad’s Jhunsi, identifying himself as a High Court lawyer.
However, he earned a living by teaching at a private school in Jhunsi and running a coaching centre in two rented rooms in the Kalyani Devi area, where he taught mathematics after school hours.
Vikas’s wife Archana, who is now based in Ghazipur, said that he died after a prolonged illness which started with “loose motions and vomitting” after he returned home from the coaching centre late on April 6, 2013.
Vikas was admitted to Jagruti Hospital, a private facility in Jhunsi, where he received treatment until April 28 when he was referred to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi.
“He could not be admitted there. Then, our family members tried to take him to Ram Manohar Lohia hospital, but he died before that on April 29,” said Archana.
She added that the family came to know about Vikas’s links to the Vyapam scam only after he died, when a police team from Madhya Pradesh visited them in August 2013.
MP police records show that Vikas was accused of being a “racketeer” and a “middleman” for candidates appearing in tests for various government jobs.
“I had absolutely no idea. He never discussed anything with me. Even the policemen did not clearly tell me anything. They only said that they just wanted his death certificate,” said Archana.
Vikas was the youngest of six siblings. He lived in the Dariyabad locality in the city with his wife, mother, one of four sisters and her son in a house constructed by his father, Diwakar Dutt, a former railway clerk.
Dutt died two years before his retirement, over 20 years ago, and his job went to the first-born in the family – Vikas’s brother, Harivansh Pandey, who is now posted at Tundla in western UP.
The next in line, Vikas’s eldest sister, died a few years ago. Three other sisters are married but one of them Shanti Pathak has been living in the family home since 1998, after she gave birth to her son.
Shanti’s husband died early this year in his village in Bhojpur, Bihar.
Vikas was married to Archana in 2009, and the couple did not have any children. “That he was able to marry itself was a big thing. He was always carrying the entire burden of the family,” said Archana, adding that she moved out after his death.
“Now, my in-laws are not cooperating with me. I don’t feel like staying there,” she said.
“I am now staring at a blank future. I will have to do something soon. My brothers have helped me but I am also talking to the madam at the school where my husband taught. She has assured me that she would do something,” she added.
Vikas’s sister Shanti, too, said that her brother’s death hit her badly. “My son is trying for a college admission, and one of my sisters is helping me. But I am not sure for how long this can continue,” she said.
As for Vikas’s death, Archana and Shanti said that they did not suspect any “foul play” and added that they have not lodged any complaint with the authorities. But both admitted that the discovery Vikas’s alleged involvement in the scam has left them feeling frightened. “We don’t want the policemen to come again,” said Shanti.
Anand Singh Yadav, 32
Cause of death: Chest pain
Anand Singh Yadav, a medical student, was the third child of Ram Sharan Yadav, a former pradhan of Dari Khurd village in Fatehpur, with two elder sisters, two younger brothers and the youngest sister.
Nearly 10 years ago, Anand set up a coaching institute called DRS Coaching in Kanpur, along with a partner, with the money his father gave him from the sale of 11.5 bighas of land.
According to Ram Sharan, Anand also got enrolled in an MBBS course in Motilal Nehru Medical College in Allahabad. “He was in the fourth year of his course when he died in 2014,” he said.
Most of the family – apart from Ram Sharan and his wife Vimla Devi – lived in Gopalganj, about 15 km from Dari Khurd, on land given by the family of Anand’s mother.
Prakash Singh, two years younger to Anand, runs a hotel in Fatehpur’s Gopalganj while the youngest brother, Vikas, is unemployed. Anand’s 25-year-old sister Ankita is pursuing an M.Sc in Zoology and Botany at a college in Bindki.
Anand’s childhood friend, Arjun Singh, claimed that the coaching institute did very well and that his friend gave “a lot of money” to his parents.
“But he seldom came home. Even on festivals, he used to come for only a couple of hours and would never stay,” says Vimla Devi, adding that her son died just after his marriage had been fixed.
Anand’s family denied any knowledge of his alleged involvement in the Vyapam scam but according to MP police records, he was a “middleman” who arranged for “solvers” or impostors to appear on behalf of candidates in tests for various government jobs.
There were five cases registered against him in Jabalpur, Bhopal, Sagar and Gwalior. Ram Sharan said a police team from MP visited them about three months after Anand’s death.
“The last time they visited us was nearly a month ago. The police officer from Indore only asked me to hand over a photograph of Anand. Even the first time, they made some queries at the coaching centre and left after getting the death certificate,” he said.
Anand died on October 9, 2013 at the Gopalganj house. His sister, Ankita, was with him at the time.
“He was involved in a road accident in Kanpur a couple of months ago and had missed his MBBS classes for a couple of months. Someone from his college called up and asked him to come over because his absence was getting too long. He told me that he needed to go to Allahabad. He then asked me to fetch oil for his bath. But suddenly, he said he felt an acute ache in the chest and fell down,” said Ankita.
Anand was rushed to a Gopalganj hospital, where he was declared dead. “We did not suspect any foul play and waived off his postmortem,” said Ram Sharan.
“Just a day before his death, he had promised me in a temple that he would open a hospital in the village once he completed his MBBS. The next day he was gone,” said Vimla Devi.
The family is now apprehensive about Ankita’s future, fearing that constant queries and visits from policemen and reporters might affect their plans for her marriage. “Please do not publish her photo,” said Vikas.
“All that we want is that the police should not keep coming back to our house,” said Ankita. “What is left to say, my boy is gone,” said Ram Sharan.