Actor Sanjay Dutt provided us with the laughs when he, as a loveable rogue, cleared the medical exam using a dummy candidate in Munnabhai MBBS. An investigation by Vibes Of India can reveal that there are at least two dozen Munnabhais and bens currently employed by the Gujarat government in various positions.
These two dozen people, who are government servants and avail all the perks associated with such jobs, and who will continue to get benefits post-retirement, have managed and paid dummy candidates to write their exams. Operation ‘Government Exams’ is the latest scam to rock the Gujarat government.
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
The candidates and those hand-in-glove with them managed to forge all exam-related documents thanks to sophisticated technology. Gujarat would top India when it comes to everything fake. Be it passport, ration card or any other document, for a price, you get it all here.
In this case, dummy candidates were provided with fake identity cards, exam hall tickets, and all other required documents. It is a well-oiled racket that covers exams ranging from school boards to government competitive tests, and so far, 36 people have been named in the FIR. Yet, the scam has only been partially unearthed.
BLESSINGS OF BIG GUNS
Senior police officers told Vibes Of India that a racket of such humongous proportions, which has been going on for the past several years, cannot be possible without the ‘bigwigs’ blessings’. Vibes Of India will not speculate on who the big guns are at the moment, but can safely say that out of the four accused arrested in the scam, at least three are government employees.
AAP LEADER ON THE RADAR?
Top sources in the police and bureaucracy said that a senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader in the state, Yuvrajsinh Jadeja, could be questioned and subsequently arrested in the scam in the coming days. Ironically, Yuvrajsinh himself is a whistle-blower who helped expose the dummy writers’ scam that has been operational in Gujarat for at least 11 years.
The police, however, believe that Yuvrajsinh was “selective” in “leaking” the information. A senior cop said that Yuvrajsinh, for financial gains, wanted to protect certain people involved in the scam and attempted to cover their tracks. Sources in the Bhavnagar Police (Bhavnagar in Saurashtra is the epicentre of the dummy candidates scam) said Yuvrajsinh was paid Rs 2 crore in cash by at least two suspects.
It has surprised those not familiar with Gujarat that the sleepy coastal town of Bhavnagar has emerged as the hub of the scam. The fact is, scores of government job aspirants — who do not meet the basic criteria for applying for such jobs but end up passing with flying colours – are from Bhavnagar.
The choice of Bhavnagar as the epicentre to run the scam is indeed a smart one. It’s not easy to keep it going for 11 years. A senior BJP leader, Jitu Vaghani, is from Bhavnagar. A powerful politician with great networking skills, Vaghani was the Gujarat BJP chief from 2016 to 2021, after which he was made the Education Minister in the state. Talk of irony.
Vaghani’s son Mit Vaghani was debarred from the first-year BCA exam in 2019 after an upright principal called out his bluff. Mit Vaghani was found with 27 chits stuck all over his body. His father initially attempted to reportedly silence the principal, then defend his son, but the principal had the CCTV recording to establish his claim. The principal, then talking to Vibes Of India, had said, “Everyone complains about the standard of education in Gujarat. See, here is the reason”.
Jitu Vaghani had to back down. He said at that time, “If he has made the mistake, he has to face the action as per the University rules and get blacklisted from taking exams for two years.”
THE LATEST SCAM
The accused, Panot, Dave, and Rathod had a simple modus operandi. The masterminds had ‘agents’ spread all over the state who would spread the word that they could help any desperate candidate clear the government. The ‘fees’ ranged from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 50 lakh depending on the exam and the department.
To clear the picture as to why anyone would cough up such a huge amount of money, here’s the truth bomb. A BJP leader recently told Vibes of India, “Fifty lakh rupees is not such a big amount. It can be recovered within a year if the candidate gets the right posting.”
Indeed, the vibrancy of corruption has made government jobs in Gujarat a very lucrative proposition, especially for those from regions such as Saurashtra, where opportunities are far and few.
The fact that in the past one year, over 21 exam papers have been leaked shows a deep-rooted corruption malice.
HOW THE SCAM WAS CARRIED OUT
According to the police, the accused had exclusive access and knowhow to facilitate fake identity cards. They used paid computer software to forge ID cards and other documents. Also, they had a network across Gujarat. In the last 11 years, they also prepared a ‘bank of brilliant students’. These students would be paid Rs 25,000 to write one paper each as a dummy student. One such student has been identified as Milan Baraiya. He has appeared for 11 different exams on others’ names. Needless to say, all 11 passed with flying colours and at least two students are employed with the Judiciary Department.
THE POLICE VERSION
Police Inspector BH Shingrakhiya, in-charge, Bhavnagar local Crime Branch, told Vibes Of India that the cops got a specific information earlier this week (April 10) that Panot, Dave, and Rathod were charging huge money from candidates seeking government jobs and were arranging for dummy candidates to write exams on their behalf. The trio forged hall tickets, photographs and arranged for dummy candidates, depending upon the subject and the examinations. Aadhaar Cards were used to match examination photographs with dummy candidates.
The police have nailed evidence that supports how the trio used dummy candidates to appear for examinations for the posts of sanitary inspector, live stock inspector, forest guards, lab technicians, court clerks, multi-purpose health workers and even for Class 10 and 12 Board examinations.
Milan Baraiya, who is just 19, has admitted to the police that he wrote at least seven exams for different people. There is another dummy candidate who has reportedly cleared 11 examinations. Milan said he was under-age and was not eligible to appear for these exams.
Recently, the three accused had even put up two dummy candidates for the junior clerk exam held on April 9, but asked the writers to return home after Yuvrajsinh Jadeja made allegations of irregularities and probability of dummy candidates writing the exams.
The police seized 80 fake exam hall tickets from Panot’s laptop. Another accused, Pradeep Baraiya, who works as a clerk in a court in Jesar town near Bhavnagar, revealed that he had put up two dummy writers to appear for the exam for sanitary inspector held in 2022 for aspirants Abhishek Pandya and Chandu Pandya. Both are presently working in the government. “Abhishek and Chandu paid Baraiya Rs 12 lakh each,” Shingrakhiya said.
Student leader Yuvrajsinh was the first person to expose the use of dummy candidates in the Gujarat government examinations. Yuvraj joined AAP in 2021, a little before the Gujarat Assembly elections. Now the police say that Yuvrajsinh himself is involved in the scam. Yuvrajsinh remained unavailable for comment.
NOT JUST FOR GOVT JOBS
Dummy candidates are not just restricted to government jobs in Gujarat. The Mehsana Police are probing irregularities in the IELTS (International English Language Testing System) exams at seven centres (Rajkot, Vadodara, Mehsana, Ahmedabad, Navsari, Nadiad and Anand).
Senior police officers told Vibes Of India that they have evidence that points to at least 965 students having fraudulently scored high IELTS scores this year by paying Rs 14 lakh each. All of them are now in the US, Canada or the United Kingdom, the cops said.
The police said the first case of irregularity came to the fore in April when a dummy student was caught taking the exam in Nadiad. Later, it was found that CCTVs in two centres were switched off to accommodate dummy candidates in Navsari and Mehsana.
LEAVE GUJARAT IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM: BJP
Last year, Jitu Vaghani had been quoted as saying that those who do not like the education system in Gujarat “should collect their children’s certificates and go to whichever state or country they like, instead of criticising the state where they have lived and grown up”. Educationists say that the state’s entire model of education needs an overhaul.
Teacher and filmmaker Manishi Jani, who was president of the Navnirman Andolan in the 1970s, which is Gujarat’s most successful student agitation that saw the exit of then Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel, said there was “no morality left in the Education Department” in the state. “The government has become absolutely shameless and takes action only when it politically gives it the brownie points,” Jani said.