While images of scantily-clad women being pulled out of the water or sitting around looking dazed, allegedly “molested” in an overcrowded public pool in Vietnam are going viral and drawing condemnation from chivalrous keyboard warriors worldwide, something far more shocking and outrageous has been going on in India. Frankly, I wasn’t even aware of it until I heard it on the BBC. Let’s leave the Vietnamese ladies alone and travel to Madhya Pradesh, the massive central heartland of India.
Our story brings us to Vyapam, the professional examination board that oversees entrance tests to engineering and medical colleges in Madhya Pradesh. It is an open secret that since 2007, tens of thousands of students and job aspirants have paid hefty bribes to middlemen, bureaucrats and politicians to rig test results at Vyapam for medical schools and government jobs. Also well-known, were “surrogate examinees” who used the identities of people who bribed them to sit for their examinations. Some students or candidates would pay for leaked questions. Others pay the markers to bump up their scores. Some even submit uncompleted scripts which were “mysteriously” filled up when they reached the markers.
Complaints of cheating had been trickling in since 2012, but they were mostly ignored. Then, in July 2013 Dr Anand Rai, a very outspoken 38-year-old medical officer, decided to blow the whistle on what is possibly the biggest scam in the world of academia. He boldly (some said recklessly) revealed that he was helping the police with intelligence on how medical school exams were being rigged in Madhya Pradesh.
Not long after Dr Anand went public with his accusations, raising protests and condemnation, he received a call from someone who threatened to kill him if he continued to give evidence. Undaunted, Dr Anand reported the matter to the police. The threatening call was eventually traced to an assistant professor of a medical college in Mumbai! The professor’s arrest opened a probe into what is believed to be the biggest scandal in India’s history. The scale of the scandal boggles the mind. Some 2,530 people are suspected to be involved, 1,930 people have been arrested and more than 500 suspects are on the run. Hundreds of medical students are now in prison for bribery and exam fraud, along with several bureaucrats and the state’s education minister! Even the governor has been implicated.
It has been two years and India’s police have had their hands full racing to meet a July 2015 deadline in the criminal probe. As a sign that they had only grasped the proverbial tip of the iceberg, investigators are now faced with the daunting task of investigating the deaths of witnesses and suspects. In the past week, police said, one of those accused died after having chest pains in prison, another drowned in a village pond and a third died of a liver infection.
Last Saturday, television reporter Akshay Singh died while investigating a suspect’s death. Singh sipped tea during an interview and began coughing and foaming at the mouth, according to media reports. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors said he had suffered a heart attack. A staggering 33 people, mostly accused in connection with the scam, have died in the past two years – raising suspicions and all kinds of conspiracy theories. Ten of them have died in road accidents. It is difficult to establish any conclusive connections or proof of foul play; the overwhelming circumstantial evidence notwithstanding.
Doctors in India are now being questioned and doubted by their patients for there is no telling how many of them are fake. Worse, people are living in fear, unsure if any doctor, fake or real, would commit murder to cover up fraudulent acts at Vyapam. The involvement of high ranking officials have put a serious dent in the people’s trust for the ruling BJP. Now let’s get back to Singapore where many people are still in the dark. The following quote is taken from our Ministry of Foreign Affairs website and it concerns a mutual recognition agreement between India and Singapore.
Mutual Recognition Agreement for Goods
The mutual recognitions agreement will eliminate duplicative testing and certification of products in specific sectors, and facilitate bilateral cooperation in several sectors. CECA provides a framework for concluding Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) to eliminate duplicative testing and certification of products to facilitate entry of goods for sale in the respective markets. These sectoral MRAs serve to reduce costs and shorten time to market. This is especially useful for products with short life cycle.
Two sectoral annexes for trade in electrical and electronic products and telecommunication equipment were concluded under the framework chapter. For products in these two sectors, testing and certification to Indian standards and technical regulations can be done at source. They do not have to be further tested or re-certified on arrival in the market. As most of these products have relatively short life cycles, the result is a reduction in relative cost and improved time to market competitiveness of Singapore certified products entering the Indian market and vice versa.
Testing and certification to Indian standards and technical regulations can be done at source? No further testing and re-certification in Singapore? Well, when this thing gets through, molested Vietnamese ladies and the occasional or even frequent MRT breakdowns may be less worrying than products from India. We’d better set aside a huge sum of money to prevent corruption or getting killed.
© Chan Joon Yee