Alarm in India over dozens of deaths of people linked to Vyapam scandal

TV journalist Akshay Singh had spent about an hour talking to the family he had traveled to central India to interview when he started losing consciousness.

Singh foamed at the mouth and fell from his chair, according to colleagues. His TV crew took him unconscious to a nearby hospital where he was declared dead.

The next day, police in New Delhi found the body of a college dean, Arun Sharma, in a hotel room.

On the face of it, the two deaths over the weekend, which happened hundreds of kilometers apart, have nothing to do with each other.

But both men are linked to a mysterious web of suspicion, death and scandal that has seized national attention in India and prompted one government minister to say she fears for the lives of those connected to her.

At the heart of the matter is a high-profile corruption case involving allegations of bribes being paid for jobs and college admissions in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh.

Corruption is hardly unusual in India. What's causing alarm in Madhya Pradesh is that people connected to the state's investigation into the alleged scam keep dying.


'I am a minister but still I am scared'


A former judge supervising the state's investigation has said that more than two dozen people linked to the case have died in the past two years.

Opposition politicians and activists in Madhya Pradesh allege that the number of deaths is almost double the official count.

Many of the deaths were originally attributed to causes like road accidents, suicide and illness. There's no evidence of foul play, but many Indians don't know what to believe anymore.

"I am scared for the lives of people connected to me. I am a minister but still I am scared," Uma Bharati, the water resources minister for India's federal government and a former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, said Monday, according to The Times of India, a national newspaper.


Deaths at weekend under investigation


The two men who died over the weekend both had links to the scandal, which investigators say dates back to at least 2007 and involved a nexus of politicians, bureaucrats, middlemen and bribe-paying candidates.

Singh was working on a report about the death of a suspect who had been named in the investigation. He collapsed Saturday during a visit to the suspect's family in Madhya Pradesh.

"He was making sound like he was choking on something," Rahul Kariya, a colleague who was with him at the time, said in an interview with India Today, their employer. "His left hand became stiff and his lips quivered."

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