Sudhanva Shetty Shetty
Writer, coffee-addict, likes folk music & long walks in the rain. Firmly believes that there's nothing more important in a democracy than a well-informed electorate.
Most of us complain about corruption, while some of us take action against it. And in the process, these people rattle conventions, evoke government backlash, inspire million, and change the dynamics of public discourse.
Anand Rai is one such individual. Dr Rai became an inspiration to all of us when he became the instrument to unlocking the infamous Vyapam Scam in Madhya Pradesh.
The Vyapam Scam
The Vyapam Scam burst into public debate in mid-2015. In a nutshell, Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board (MPPEB), or “Vyapam”, is a government body responsible for conducting several entrance tests in the state. Admissions to educational institutes in the state are also under its ambit. The scam involved many undeserving applicants who bribed officials through intermediaries for getting high ranks and posts.
The Vyapam Scam has evolved into one of the most massive and murky corruption scandals in recent times. It involves bribery, impersonation, forgery and misuse of powers by various officials. There are over 2000 people accused, many of whom are prominent leaders, and 40 of the accused have been found dead – Vyapam’s implications are enormous.
Anand Rai was the chief whistleblower of the scam. Despite receiving threats, Dr Rai faced the odds and is helping the police and has been consistently fighting against the repeated attempts to suppress the case.
The Logical Indian recently spoke to Dr Rai about his experiences.
What is your take on the corruption involved in the Vyapam scam?
It is not limited to Madhya Pradesh; the entire country is party to it. Medical exams, civil services – virtually all recruitment entrances have become plagued with corruption. In 2012, for example, the AIIMS paper was leaked. Since then, we have been working hard to curb this rising tide of corruption. Exposing someone is one thing, but convicting them is a whole other ball game. It’s also a whole lot more difficult. The guilty who are freed continue to commit the crimes, and continue to dilute the integrity of the system.
What is the current situation of the scam?
250 FIRs have been registered. But only 10% of these have been filed. We hoped the CJI (Chief Justice Of India) would work faster and more efficiently; however, this has not been the case.
When it comes to corruption, are civil servants better or worse than politicians?
Even bureaucrats are very corrupt, particularly in the case of Vyapam. Politicians of course are responsible for a share of the corruption; but civil servants are responsible for the rest.
You were abruptly transferred following your exposé, evidence of. deep-rooted corruption in our system. How can we solve this?
The Whistleblower Protection Act has not been notified yet by the government. There were hopes that the Modi government, when it came to power in 2014, would do it. However, these hopes have been betrayed. If you want to encourage good, responsible citizens to stand up for what is right, if you want to encourage a transparent, corruption-free system, then you are duty-bound to provide protection to those who risk their lives in the process. Whistleblowers do not have this protection; they are exposed to death threats, they live their lives in peril, putting their families and careers at risk, and yet there is no scheme to protect them. The Modi government should take this up as a priority and move to make the lives of whistleblowers safer.
What is your opinion on the media’s role in the issue?
Only the media is here to encourage us. Media has been very active and I can honestly say that it is only because of the press coverage that we are still alive because it has only been the reporters and journalists who have constantly put so much pressure on the government.
Why has it taken so long for successive governments to come up with a comprehensive law for the protection of whistleblowers?
They do not want it, do they? Especially in Madhya Pradesh, since 2005, there has been no award or recognition given to an RTI activist. Despite over 30,000 second appeals pending before the State Commission, there is no whistleblower policy. Even our Chief Minister treats whistleblowers like goons or like the mafia. The officers involved in the Vyapam scam are in the wrong, but those who are exposing them in public are the ones being targeted, the ones being called as blackmailers by the CM. There is no incentive, no encouragement, no protection for whistleblowers. There should be a whistleblower reward scheme which aims to encourage more people to come forward, to take action.
Do you think corruption in India is greater than corruption in other countries?
I work in India, and I have never been outside the country, so I can not speak about the situation in other countries. But in India, corruption has become a root cause: you can even say that it has entered the people’s DNA. The public, especially the poor, have accepted it almost as a way of life, thinking of it as a natural part of the process to make anything happen.
How can this culture be tackled?
The people need to act. We need to decide that we need a transparent system, one that works under the law and for us all. This will take hard work and sacrifice, but eventually it will be for the good of us all.
Off topic, but, what is your stance on the state of healthcare in India?
It is evident to anybody who studies it knows that healthcare in India is in a terrible condition. The national population is increasing by leaps and bounds, but infrastructure and healthcare remain in tatters. We are investing a lot in defence and other sectors, but we have to also put focus on health and education if we are to develop as a country.
Any concluding words?
The Logical Indian is doing a very good job. It is a very popular and very impartial media outlet and it is playing a very important role, especially among the youth of our country. It fills a gap abandoned by mainstream media outlets which, more often than not, are today swayed by political parties and ideologies rather than journalistic ethics.
The Logical Indian salutes Dr Rai for taking this bold step endangering his and his family’s lives to expose the scams and fighting for a corruption-free nation.
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