The State of Madhya Pradesh has been under the (Bharatiya Janata Party) BJP‘s rule for 12 years now. Even though the BJP seems to be the invincible ruling party of MP under Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, there is a reason to believe that a desire for change is slowly gaining momentum amongst the people of the state. In the past 12 years, the BJP–RSS combine under Chouhan’s leadership have ensured that their party workers and functionaries are benefitted financially through government contracts, tenders and schemes. Chouhan has often favored focusing on making elections as his priority, often at the cost of governance. The Chief Minister, in the past decade, has projected every election victory as his own. The Opposition has also cited the increase in the number of crimes against women, as well as an increase in communal incidences in the state of Madhya Pradesh, under Chouhan’s rule. CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been under the scrutiny of the people of the state, the opposition, and some members of his own party itself.
Here are some of the failures of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan Government in Madhya Pradesh:
1. Vyapam Scam
The ‘Vyapam scam‘ was a scam relating to entrance exams, admissions and recruitments that was unearthed in 2013. It involved politicians, senior and junior officials, and businessmen employing imposters for the sake of writing papers, manipulating exam hall seating arrangements and supplying forged answer sheets by bribing officials.
‘VYAPAM‘ stands for ‘Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal‘. It is a Hindi acronym for the Madhya Pradesh Professional Exam Board (MPPEB), which is a self-financed and autonomous body incorporated by the state of Madhya Pradesh and is responsible for conducting several entrance exams in the state.
The scam involved 13 different exams conducted by Vyapam, where results for the selection of medical students and government state employees were rigged. Around 3.2 million students took the exams every year, many of whom were proxies for other undeserving students. There was also this system called ‘engine-bogie’ involving seating arrangement facilities, where a smarter student was seated in between two other students to allow them to copy the answers from the former.
Undeserving candidates bribed politicians and MPPEB officials through middlemen in order to get high ranks in these entrance tests. There were instances of between 23 and 40 ‘unnatural deaths’ relating to individuals in the scam, although the number may have very well gone up to 100 including the former Governor of state‘s son, as well as instances of deaths in staged road accidents.
Though there had been cases of irregularities since the mid-1990s, and the first FIR was filed in 2000, the cases of them being organized in nature didn’t come into light until 2009. The state government set up an investigation committee when complaints surfaced in the pre-medical tests (PMT). Over a hundred people were arrested when the committee released its report in 2011. However, none of the accused have been convicted as most of them either died due to ‘suspicious circumstances’ in custody or were released on bail.
In 2013, the case came to light when the Indore police arrested 20 people who impersonated candidates in the 2009 PMT. The interrogation of these 20 people led to the arrest of Jagdish Sagar, the leader of the organized racket involved in this scam This compelled the state government to set up a Special Task Force (STF) on 26th August 2013. Arrests and subsequent interrogations revealed the involvement of several politicians, bureaucrats, MPPEB officials, racket leaders, middlemen and parents in the scam. By mid-2015, over 2,000 people were arrested with regards to involvement in the scam.
In July 2015, the Supreme Court ordered the case to be handed over to the Central Bureau Of Investigation (CBI), India’s premier investigation agency.
2. Dumper Scam
The events of the Dumper scam happened soon after the Chief Minister was Sworn into office in 2005. About two weeks after becoming Chief Minister, Jai Prakash Associates or JP Associates acquired a mining contract for 470.97 acres of land in the Rewa district of Madhya Pradesh. In May 2006, four heavy-duty dumpers under the name of the CM’s wife Sadhna Singh were acquired by JP Associates.
Special Judge R.K. Bhave directed the Lokayukta police to file an FIR against the Chief Minister and his wife, after the issue was raised by Bharatiya Janshakti‘s Uma Bharati and Congress leader Ramesh Sahu. Former opposition leader Jamuna Devi also approached the Lokayukta and the High Court regarding the issue.
The FIR culminated in a 3-month long campaign by the opposition.
Chief Minister Chouhan defended himself saying that he didn’t do anything wrong, stating that it is not a crime for his family members to earn a living through legitimate means. He also stated that he had the full support of the BJP who asked him not to resign.
The allegations against Chouhan stem from the affidavit he had submitted to the Election Commission during his campaign for the assembly seat in April 2006 which showed a sum of Rs. 2.7 crores in his and his wife’s bank accounts, without the mention of any heavy vehicles.
However, in 2006, his wife became the owner of four dumpers with an address registered in JP Nagar, Rewa. Chouhan denied the allegations of disproportionate assets claiming that the trucks were financed. The details were erased from the Transport Department‘s website when the former Union Minister Prahlad Patel demanded an explanation for the dumpers.
In 2010, the Lokayukta police department gave a clean chit to Chouhan and his wife after ‘nothing significant’ was found against them during the investigation.
3. Water Crisis in Bundelkhand
Another reason that puts CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s BJP government in Madhya Pradesh under fire is that of the water crisis problem in Bundelkhand, and that around 80% of hand pumps are reportedly not working the region. The funds were allocated but were not made use of effectively.
Bundelkhand is an area that covers six districts in Madhya Pradesh and seven districts in Uttar Pradesh. In both states, the locals allege facing ‘administrative discrimination’. Locals from the district of Tikamgarh, located in Madhya Pradesh, complained that most water pumps in villages either didn’t work, or there would be only one pump for every three hundred to four hundred people.
Congress spokesperson, Pankaj Chaturvedi stated that people undertake long treks to acquire water, and that it has a negative impact on their health and wellbeing.
In April 2018, a group of citizens from the region arrived at Bhopal to meet with senior ministers and government officials with the complaint that the villagers had to wait long hours to get access to water for drinking and bathing.
“In many villages, people have to work hard and walk for 2 kilometres (for water). Often, people have to use unclean water, which in turn brings in skin infections and diseases like diarrhoea.”, Congress spokesperson Chaturvedi said.
4. Illegal Sand Mining in Bhind
The issue of Illegal mining has become a serious one in the last couple of years, highlighting the occurrences of various deaths as a result of dealing with the powerful mining mafia.
The death of Sandeep Sharma, a journalist who worked for News World Channel, brought the issue of illegal sand mining to light. Sandeep had exposed the nexus between the police and the sand mining mafia in Chambal region. In March 2018, while on his way to the Press Club on a motorbike, Sharma was run over by a dumper at Bhind in Madhya Pradesh. He died on the spot. The truck driver fled the scene after the accident.
Local journalists allege that Sharma was a victim of murder, as he had exposed the nexus between the police and the mafia. He had been facing threats to his life since exposing the two parties. In fact, Sharma himself suggested that his life might be in some kind danger because of his work.
Sharma carried out a sting operation in 2017, that was published by the news agency he worked for. After the news broke, the Superintendent of Police said that some officers and personnel had been shifted after the sting was aired, but none of them faced any disciplinary action.
In December 2017 itself, at least six journalists in the Chhatarpur district were attacked and injured while covering cases of illegal mining. Journalists have repeatedly borne the brunt of the sand mafia violence and threats.
In 2012 an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Narendra Kumar was run over in Morena by a tractor-trolley carrying illegal mined stone slabs when he was attempting to stop the vehicle. In 2015, a police constable was run over by a truck filled with illegally mined sand, when he tried to stop it. In 2017, An Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer Sonia Meena was threatened at gunpoint by illegal miners when she, as a sub-divisional magistrate in Chhattarpur district, decided to check on illegal mining in Betwa River.
The government said that it was doing everything it could to keep a check on illegal mining. Bhind District Magistrate Ilayaraja T said, “We are taking stringent steps to check illegal mining. Unlike earlier when we used to seize the heavy machines and later release it, now we are auctioning such seized vehicles.”
5. Farmer Crisis in Mandaur
In 2017, the Mandaur district in Madhya Pradesh saw a 10-day farmers’ protests demanding better prices for their produce. The protests eventually led to clashes between the farmers and the police in Sehore, Indore, and Bhopal. The incident left six policemen injured. The protests escalated to a point where clashes between the police and the farmers ended up leaving five farmers dead as a result of police firing.
According to Ajay Singh, son of former Union Minister, Arjun Singh, the farmers’ protests can be attributed to the failure on part of the government’s Minimum Support Prices (MSP), which the BJP government had promised but was unable to deliver. The farmers need a fair MSP in tune with production costs.
The input costs have gone up in recent years, but the procurement costs by the government have largely remained the same.
Post-harvest, the farmers also remain clueless as to what to do with their share of the produce. There is hardly any government support and corruption is rampant, said Singh.