WITH the Constitution providing reservations in jobs and educational institutions for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (SC/STs), it's inevitable that a racket in fake caste certificates should flourish. But the targeted ben-eficiaries secured justice of sorts last fortnight when the state government can-celled the admission of 12 medical students, with 17 engineering students all set to meet the same fate.
The order has come on the initiative of Ram Prakash Pahadia, of Revai village in Shiv-puri district, who in March '95 wrote a complaint to Sarath Chandra, then director general of police, naming 100 students of various medical and engineering colleges of the state as those who got in on the basis of fake caste certificates. In at least half the cases Pahadia provided complete details of the candidates, like address, 'real' caste, year of admission, parents' identity and the mode of acquiring the fake certificates. In a 12-page letter, Pahadia said repeated complaints to politicians and administrators had fallen on deaf ears and that the police was his last resort.
On March 22, 1995, the case was assigned to the Crime Investigation Department (CID). A three-member team headed by DSP Ramsingh Dhakde completed investigations in 36 cases and submitted its report in July. As many as 29 students were held to have secured admissions on the basis of fake certificates. In 24 other cases, investigations were put on hold due to the
The report divided the 29 fake certificates into three categories: 19 of the applicants belonged to the general category; three candidates had SC/ST status in some pockets of Madhya Pradesh but were not residents of those areas despite belonging to the stated caste; in seven cases the candidates' parents had migrated from other states to Madhya Pradesh, thus losing their status as tribals since these communities were not entitled to reservation benefits in the state.
Take Sindhul Meena, son of a 1968 batch IAS officer, T.N. Meena. Currently principal secretary for Bhopal gas relief and rehabilitation, Meena belongs to Rajasthan where his community is listed as a Scheduled Tribe. But in Madhya Pradesh, they are cat-egorised as backward classes and cannotavail of any reservation benefits.
According to a police report, a sub-divisional officer (revenue) issued Sindhul a caste certificate in Rewa district, where his father was then the divisional commissioner. Besides the fact that the officer had no power to issue such a certificate, it is also pointed out that Meena was not a permanent resident of Rewa. The report claims that Meena, in spite of being fully aware of the legal position, filed an affi-davit in favour of his son and got him admitted to a medical college in Indore, from where he transferred to Bhopal's Gandhi Medical College.
In defence, T.N. Meena raises a simple question: why is he considered a non-tribal in Madhya Pradesh while he's listed as a tribal in his native Rajasthan? Others implicated in the fake certificate racket put up similar defences. Including Virendra Kumar Gupta, an executive engineer in the Water Resources Department. He joined the government in 1960 as a general category candidate but had himself listed in the service records as a member of a Scheduled Tribe 22 years later, in 1982. By then he had secured a fake certifi-cate from his hometown Gondia in Maharashtra.
At stake is not just the fate of a few dozen students but of thousands of others who have secured jobs or fought elections on the basis of fake certificates.
Incidentally, three persons belonging to Chief Minister Digvijay Singh's hometown, Radhogarh in Guna district, were fired for having gotten jobs on the basis of fake caste certificates. But they were appointed under the general category the very same day they were removed from the Scheduled Tribe quota jobs. In another case, former Union minister Kamal Nath wrote to the chief minister to help some people against whom the police was investigating a fake certificates case.
Indeed, in his letter to the home secretary, Chandra described the exposure as just the "tip of the iceberg" and suggested a thorough probe. In fact, even out of the 100 students listed in Pahadia's complaint, the police reported that 40 were not traceable. But Minister for Medical Education and Manpower Narendra Nahta says: "I have instructed the CID to report to me about
the problem in tracing their addresses." And Nahta is not willing to leave it at that. "I have instructed both the departments, for medical and technical education, to make random investigations into the cases of those students who were admitted under reservations for SC/STs," he says. Which no doubt will give other fake certificate holders many a sleepless night.