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When Investigators Turned Scamsters: Madhya Pradesh Nursing Scam Explained

Rahul Raj has been terminated by the CBI and arrested in the bribery case

Bhopal:

A new team from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is likely to take over the investigation into Madhya Pradesh’s nursing colleges scam after members of the agency’s earlier team allegedly became a part of it. Four CBI officers, including a Deputy Superintendent-rank officer, have been named in the FIR and three have been arrested.

The Enforcement Directorate, it is learnt, can register a separate case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act against the officers. Also, the colleges tagged “suitable” earlier could be re-examined.

What Is The Case

An NDTV investigation last year found gross irregularities in the functioning of nursing colleges in Madhya Pradesh. Top officials in the health education department were found running nursing colleges that did not even have a campus. Some “colleges” were found running from a few rooms. In the aftermath of the shocking revelations, the state nursing council cancelled the affiliation of 19 colleges. Following a high court order, the CBI investigation started a probe into the functioning of 670 colleges registered in 2020-21.

The CBI Twist

In its report on 308 nursing colleges, the CBI tagged 169 colleges “fit”, 66 “unfit” and 73 “deficient”. But there were questions. A government college in Rewa was declared “unfit”. On the other hand, a college that was tagged “fit” had the address of a rented building from which a school was running. It is alleged that CBI officers were providing “fit” tags in exchange for bribes. The agency’s team would charge between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 10 lakh to tag an “unfit” college “fit”. The investigation has revealed that the bribery cartel functioned through Rajasthan. A middleman would send the bribes to Jaipur and it would then be routed to a CBI officer, the probe has found. CBI officers Rahul Raj, Sushil Kumar Majoka and Rishi Kant Asathe have been arrested. Deputy SP Ashish Prasad is also an accused. 

The CBI has searched 31 locations across Madhya Pradesh and Jaipur and found over Rs 2.3 crore in cash, 4 gold bars and incriminating documents. Rahul Raj, it is alleged, would coordinate with middlemen and share schedule of CBI inspections, fix and collect bribe amounts, and provide suitability report. He was caught red-handed while accepting Rs 10 lakh as bribe, it is learnt. Rahul Raj has now been terminated from service. 

Codewords such as “Chaach Glass:, “Achar Ki Barni” and “Kilo Aam” were used to relay messages about bribe amounts and their collection, it is learnt.

The Rule Change

The gross irregularities coming to the fore in the functioning of nursing colleges in the state are playing out against the backdrop of the changes in the state government’s guidelines for such institutions earlier this year. Earlier, such a college could only function if it had an area of at least 23,000 square feet. This minimum area requirement was reduced to 8,000 square feet. Also, the 10:1 ratio of assistant professor and students was tweaked to 20:1. The minimum area for a nursing lab was revised from 1500 square metres to 900 metres.

NDTV’s investigation had earlier found that many nursing colleges were running without proper faculty or infrastructure. One faculty member was found teaching in at least 10 colleges across three cities — as principal in some and associate professor in others. NDTV also found colleges that have no faculty hand out “certificates”.

The Politics

The shocking findings in the case and the scale of corruption has prompted the Opposition to target the Mohan Yadav-led BJP government. Congress’s Hemant Katare, deputy leader of Opposition in the Assembly, has said a Supreme Court-monitored probe was required. “We have lost faith in CBI. The agency is functioning as a tool of the BJP. We will question the government in the Assembly, but if it does not reply convincingly, we will hit the streets,” he said.

Asked about the matter, Chief Minister Dr Mohan Yadav had said the government “has to learn from past mistakes” and added he had issued several directions to ensure such irregularities do not happen. He had refused to elaborate, saying that the matter is sub-judice.

The Casualty

Trapped in the web of corruption and the politics surrounding the matter are the students, who stare at an uncertain future. Amid allegations of irregularities, about a lakh students waited for four years for their exams. The exams have finally started now, but the 12,000 students of colleges that were declared “unfit” have been left in the lurch. With the buzz of a relook at all the colleges after the fresh charge against CBI officers, these students are now wondering when they will begin their careers.