Sham exam: system was abused to benefit Chhattisgarh minister's wife
- Education minister\'s wife sends proxy to write her exam
- Examiners say they were \'pressured from above\' to keep quiet
- Minister says he wasn\'t aware of any wrongdoing
- University orders probe, suspends chief examiner
- The Congress wants minister sacked, threatens agitation
- Will the government take action against minister or his wife?
Most students have to burn the midnight oil to crack exams in India. But if you are a minister's relative in Chhattisgarh, you don't even have to take the exam to get a degree.
On 4 August, officials at an exam centre in Lohandiguda, 30 km from Bastar, caught a candidate who was sitting in for Education Minister Kedar Kashyap's wife Shanti.
Shanti is a MA (English) final year student at the Sunderlal Sharma Open University, Bilaspur.
Blowing off the lid
It all began when the Jagdalpur bureau of Rajasthan Patrika was tipped off about a proxy candidate who had gone to take the exam for Shanti.
The journalists alerted the examiners, who checked the candidate's admit card, only to find out that she was an imposter. Soon, the students noticed this and raised a commotion.
When the officials questioned the fake candidate, she said her name was Shanti Kashyap and she was the education minister's wife.
But she had no answer when confronted with the photo on the admit card which wasn't hers.
The woman was later identified as Kiran Maurya, a resident of Bhanpuri.
Still, Maurya was allowed to write the full paper and only then was she escorted out by the police.
The officials present at the exam hall kept pleading that they had done nothing wrong and it was all "due to pressure from above".
Indeed, the university's coordinator for exams, Om Prakash Mal, explicitly said his staff had full knowledge of the proxy candidate.
He even admitted that Kiran Maurya had appeared for Shanti in three previous papers as well.
Exam centre in-charge Ramesh Nage said his staff kept quiet 'owing to pressure from higher authorities'
Ramesh Nage, the in-charge of the centre, said the staff had no choice but to keep quiet "owing to pressure from higher authorities".
Following an outcry from students, the university's Vice Chancellor Bansh Gopal Singh set up a two-member committee to investigate the incident.
Terming it as a shameful episode, he ordered suspension of Om Prakash Mal and recommended action against other officials.
"I have instructed the university's Bastar in-charge to register a criminal case against Shanti Kashyap, Kiran Maurya and the officials who were complicit in this," he said.
"We have also decided to declare Shanti Kashyap as ineligible for this exam."
All in the family
Now, there is suspicion that Shanti wasn't the only member of minister's family to be involved in the fraud. Her mother was reportedly also a candidate in the same exam.
And according to some media reports, Maurya is the minister's sister-in-law.
Kedar Kashyap represents Narayanpur in the assembly and is considered one of the most powerful politicians in Chhattisgarh. His father Dinesh Kashyap is a Lok Sabha MP from Bastar.
The incident has heaped more trouble on the BJP, which is already cornered over the Lalit Modi row and the Vyapam scam.
Even after her identity was revealed, the proxy was allowed to write the full paper before being escorted out
Indeed, the Congress has sounded the battle. "Kashyap must resign immediately or else the chief minister should sack him. We will launch an agitation if the government fails to take action," said state Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel.
T S Singh Deo, the leader of opposition in the assembly, echoed his party chief. "The education minister should be a role model for students. But Kedar Kashyap has lowered the dignity of this post. He has no moral right to remain in the cabinet," he said.
Kashyap, on the other hand, has claimed ignorance. "I wasn't aware if my wife was sitting in any exam or somebody else was appearing for her. I will cooperate with any legal action in this matter," he said.
There has no reaction from Chief Minister Raman Singh so far.
It also remains to be seen if any action will be taken against the minister or his wife.