Ayush admission scam a blow to UP govt’s anti-corruption plank

The state government has suspended 891 students from Uttar Pradesh Ayush colleges for taking admission without scoring the necessary cut-off marks in NEET. As many as 22 of these students are those who got admission without even taking NEET-2021 examination, writes Mudit Mathur

A major scam broke out in Uttar Pradesh in granting admission to hundreds of ineligible candidates, who appeared in the online counselling process to join Ayurvedic, Homoeopathic and Unani medical courses in the various government and private colleges, fudging and corrupting the merit list declared after National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) for 2021-2022 session. Even the candidates who did not appear in NEET got admission in some of the good colleges. The government suspended 891 such students who failed to score necessary cut-off marks in NEET but maliciously manoeuvred admissions, marred with a deeply rooted scam. It was seen as a major blow to the much-hyped plank of corruption-free governance in the BJP-ruled state.

Looking into the seriousness of the scam, the UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath referred the probe to Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) showing his zero tolerance over it. Meanwhile, the Special Task Force (STF) arrested 12 persons including the complainant, the Director, Ayurveda Services, Prof. S.N. Singh for his alleged connivance in the scam. The preliminary probe also revealed that the original order of the merit was not followed in many cases. Surprisingly, in 22 cases, the selected students did not even appear for the NEET 2021-22 examination.

The Ayush department has ordered colleges to suspend 891 students who allegedly secured admission through fraudulent means, if colleges find their NEET results do not match the required cut-off, or if they fail to submit documents to support their admission.

It also surfaced during the probe that Director SN Singh was allegedly involved in the admission racket, conniving with two other officials and the outsourced private firm, V3 Soft Solution Private Limited, which presumably fiddled with the data of NEET merit list which they procured from the office of Director General Medical Education. The UP government has appointed Prof Prakash Chandra Saxena as new Ayurveda Director. A departmental action has also been recommended against Dr Mohd Wasim, in charge of the Unani directorate, and Dr Vijay Pushkar, joint director (education) at the Homeopathy directorate.

The FIR was filed earlier by the then Director, Ayurveda, Prof. S.N. Singh with the Hazratganj police station shifted entire blame on the shoulders of outsourcing agency Uptron Powertronics Ltd, its hired vendor V-3 Soft Solution Private Limited and its representative Kuldeep Singh, who executed the entire process of online counselling for the admission to three medical courses. The FIR has been lodged under IPC sections 120-B (conspiracy), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (fraudulently or dishonestly used as genuine), and Section 66 of the IT Act.

However, the unexplained delay in filing FIR also creates suspicion over the role of the Ayurveda Directorate. Why did the Director, Ayurveda, and his subordinates sit on the directive of the government till 4th November from 12 October, giving a long rope to Kuldeep Singh to flee from the scene with evidence stored in his laptop?.

The FIR revealed that in the year 2021-22, the Directorate of Ayurveda had constituted a board for online counselling. Due to the absence of an IT cell in the department, the contract for online counselling was given to a private agency V3 Soft Solutions Pvt Ltd through the government-nominated executing agency Uptron Powertronics Ltd, under the supervision of the board. The government-approved agency, Uptron Powertronics Ltd. had been nominated to conduct the same. The counselling process, which started on February 1, 2022, was completed in four phases by May 19, 2022.

Significantly, the admissions were done on 6797 seats out of 7338 seats in the government and private colleges of the state. From counselling to verification, the responsibility was that of the private agency. Seat allotment was also carried out after admission. Even though the records of 1181 students were not found in the merit list of NEET and 22 names were found who never appeared in the NEET examination but all of them got admission. Seats were allotted to 927 out of 1181 of these students but finally, 891 of them had joined colleges after depositing fees.

The state government suspended Prof SN Singh, director of Ayurveda, and Dr Umakant Yadav, the nodal officer for counselling and initiated departmental action against Dr Mohd Wasim, in charge of the Unani directorate, and Dr Vijay Pushkar, joint director (education) at the Homeopathy directorate. It is a matter of record that Dr Umakant procured a merit list from DGME and handed it over to Kuldeep of V3 Soft Solutions. UP STF is investigating whether the NEET merit list got altered at Ayurvedic Directorate level or the vendor played fraud. The vendor’s representative is absconding after getting a clue of the scam heading for police investigations.

After the irregularities came to light, the directorate of Ayurveda matched the list of candidates who passed NEET in the year with the data from the office of the director general of medical education, and found that the admission of 891 candidates to the mentioned colleges was doubtful in the initial fact-finding report of the AYUSH department. In the NEET-2021 counselling, out of the 7,338 sanctioned seats, 6,797 were filled.

As many as 891 first-year students of the traditional medicine systems in Uttar Pradesh are under scanner after the state government initiated a probe into ‘fraudulent admissions’ at Ayurveda, Unani and Homeopathy colleges. Six Ayurveda college students in Lucknow had already been suspended in this connection. Details of candidates in counselling sheets were allegedly altered to give admissions to those who scored low marks, at Ayurveda, Unani and Homeopathy colleges in the state via NEET-2021, officers privy to the probe revealed.

It has come to light that out of 891, 43 students got admitted in government Ayurveda colleges while 473 others had secured admissions to private Ayurveda colleges; six students to state-run and two to private homeopathy colleges; and 367 are Unani students. It is alleged that these students were given admission despite their scoring below the cut-off marks.

The modus operandi of the scammers detected, wherein the details of a candidate, who scored well, were changed and then they were replaced by non-deserving and fraudulent candidates. They ensured that the candidates whose details were changed were from outside the state to avoid complications and getting caught.

The scam of fake admission was unearthed after a girl student complained to the President of India that students having less marks than her had been given admission on high-ranking seats. The complaint was forwarded to the Union Ministry of Ayush which directed the UP government to conduct an enquiry into the matter. This is how a big scam came to light.

NEET examination is conducted at all-India level. Out of total seats of Ayurvedic colleges, 15 percent seats are filled at national level and 65 percent seats are kept for the students at state level in the merit list drawn by NEET result. The scamsters intruded into the real data of NEET result and replaced it with fraudulent entries of 1181 aspirants for the course after allegedly collecting hefty sums from them ranging Rs 5-10 lakh per candidate.

“We have ordered an inquiry. The guilty will be punished after a proper investigation,” said Dayashankar Mishra ‘Dayalu’, Uttar Pradesh Ayush Minister while addressing the media. Further investigations into the matter are being conducted by the Special Task Force (STF). Despite the request of the state government, the CBI is yet to take over the investigations of the scam and STF is investigating further designs behind the scam.