Who is Ashish Chaturvedi?
Hailing from Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh, 27-year-old Ashish Chaturvedi is a post graduate in Political Science and one of the prime whistleblowers in the Vyapam scam.
He shot to fame after a picture of him dragging his bicycle with a police constable following him became viral on social media a few years ago.
What was the Vyapam scam?
It was an admission & recruitment scam that uncovered corruption in the Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board, Vyapam (Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal), which is a self-financed autonomous
body by the State government, conducting several entrance tests for recruitment in government jobs and admissions in educational institutes.
The scam unearthed how undeserving candidates bribed politicians and MPPEB officials, through middlemen, to get high ranks in these entrance tests.
More than 40 ‘unnatural’ deaths of whistleblowers linked to the scam have been reported.
How did it all begin?
The 27-year-old’s investigation into the Vyapam scam began in 2009 when he ran pillar-to-post to get treatment for his ailing cancer- stricken mother at a local hospital.
“Doctors at the clinic didn’t have basic medical knowledge. Almost every patient was being treated in this trial and error method. I soon grew very suspicious,” he told the Deccan Chronicle.
His mother died during the course of the treatment, leading him to start probing the matter. He met Brijendra Raghuvanshi, a medical student, in 2010, who, in a casual chat, mentioned securing an admission by paying a bribe.
Attending counselling sessions with Brijendra, he witnessed private college candidates being transferred to government institutions.
He became a complainant to the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed to probe the Vyapam scam. And from then on, till date, Ashish lives in a constant fear of death, all for deciding to stand against corruption.
‘CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan wants me dead,’ his social media headers claim.
His fight ostracised him from most people he knew. While his friends abandoned him, his neighbours stopped talking to him & his family. “They curse me for standing up the corrupt who are plaguing our system by sending incompetent doctors and other officials who can’t serve people,” Ashish told IndiaTimes.
While the right of privacy has been deemed a fundamental right by the Supreme Court, Ashish has 24X7 police protection, with cops recording everything he does. Even him bathing!
“This is called state sponsored harassment. I have no such thing as privacy. They video record everything. But surprisingly, they don’t do their job – my security. I have been attacked 16 times in last two years in the presence of police, and after every attack when I went to lodge a complaint, the policemen who were with me refused to become witnesses to my thrashing. One can easily imagine, the level of harassment,” he said.
On Saturday, his father was knocked down in a hit-and-run case. Om Prakash (Ashish’s father) was travelling on his scooter when a car hit him at Gwalior’s Chetakpuri square.
The senior citizen lay unattended on the road for 35 minutes, while a police vehicle and five constables stood and watched than helping him, claimed Ashish.
“My father called me up… When I reached, I was shocked to see him lying on the road. His wrist was broken. Had it been a head injury, he wouldn’t have survived,” Ashish told the Times of India. He has now been admitted to a government hospital.
“I have no help. I don’t know if I will see tomorrow. But I’m not giving up,” he said in a 2015 interview.
We wish his father a speedy recovery and only hope no other whistleblower is discouraged to stand for the truth – when the price to pay is this high.