By Akshay Acharya
Mumbai, Sep 25 (IANS): Scams have always caught the fascination of storytellers, filmmakers and content creators, who find a thread to present the events of the past in a compelling way. 'Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story' and 'Jamtara', have for long entertained the audience while educating them at the same time about the repercussions of these scams at large.
The recently released MX Player series 'Shiksha Mandal', said to be inspired by the Vyapam scam of Madhya Pradesh, tells the story of the medical entrance exam scam.
The scam, which was functional since the 1990s, came to light in 2013. Huge irregularities were found in the exams conducted by Vyapam (Vyavsayik Pariksha Mandal) -- otherwise known as Madhya Pradesh Professional Examination Board, in the selection of medical students and state government employees (including food inspectors, transport constables, police personnel, school teachers, dairy supply officers and forest guards) where the final results were rigged.
About 40 individuals involved in the scam died from unnatural causes, though the unofficial figure is over 100 deaths as reported by the media.
Madhya Pradesh's former education minister Laxmikant Sharma too was named as an accused in the same. Later, in what can be called an ironic turn of fate, Sharma died in 2021 at the age of 60 due to Covid-19.
IANS recently spoke with Gautam Talwar, Chief Content Officer at MX Player about the nature of the scam, the research, documentation, findings and the current status of the scam.
Sharing what was so compelling about the scam that resulted in the birth of a series, Talwar said in an interview with IANS: "The knowledge that scams like these will land up making future doctors who will then impact people's lives and the society overall was a story worth telling for sure."
He was also intrigued by the manner that the entire machinery works, and the number of people involved into making it a reality.
As a part of the research, the writing team went through various news articles, ongoing court case proceedings, and also met the "victim's relatives, and colleagues".
Talwar added: "They visited coaching centres, and understood how the examination process happens from the students point of view. In some cases, the team also met the victims who were wrongly diagnosed by fake doctors. The team helped ably by local line producers also helped in unearthing true stories that became part of the overall narrative."
Upon being probed further about the key findings and outcome of the research, Talwar said, "There are many stories, and incidents which are individually very strange and unique, but difficult to narrate in a cohesive story form. This education scam is neither recent nor over, it is probably still going on in many states in multiple streams."
Since, there were many divergent stories arising from the scam, the creators focussed on one stream -- of medical entrance tests, given its impact on society.
The scam is ever-evolving as the scamsters come up with new ways once their old modus operandi is exposed by the media agencies.
"Till even very recently scams are being unearthed by various news channels, but the scamsters have found new ways of committing similar scams once the modus operandi gets unearthed. It's too large an industry to be stopped completely," Talwar told IANS.
But, where do the wires connect at the end of it? Is it some powerful politician, a bureaucrat, a crime lord or a collusion of all these?
Talwar had a rather interesting answer. He said, "There is no end point to it, the scam is probably still happening at various levels from individuals to coaching centres to schools to universities within the education system. It's too multi-pronged with too many nefarious connections which keep changing with the course of time. It's not an easy wire to detangle."
What makes this scam unique is that "it has not been done or started by one person and it's not over yet, there are many people at multiple levels involved, it's kind of a chain."
Talwar concluded by noting: "It's a well-organised scam and will keep changing its modus operandi consistently to be in operation. What is sad is that the demand from the end consumer fuels this kind of scam."