P Naveen| TNN |


File photo of Ashish Chaturvedi with his security guard.File photo of Ashish Chaturvedi with his security guard.
BHOPAL: More than 80 personal security officers (PSOs) provided protection to Vyapamwhistle-blowerAshish Chaturvedi over the last two years, and all of them, without an exception, find keeping 24×7 watch on him is nearly impossible. His frequent ‘vanishing tricks’ stumped them — and this is something their training academy did not cover.

Chaturvedi, however, does not agree with it. He claims PSOs feel “embarrassed” of pedalling cycles along with him. He says they have branded him “Mr India” — from the 1987 Bollywood flick in which the hero turns invisible with the help of a watch. “I don’t have any such watch,” he laughs.

“The reason is very simple. These PSOs are used to moving around with politicians and top bureaucrats in SUVs. They don’t enjoy riding a bicycle,” says Chaturvedi, who has secured, through RTI, copies of complaints made by his security officers to their reporting officers. One of the PSOs reports that it was very difficult to follow Chaturvedi on a cycle as he “vanishes while moving through congested bylanes and streets”.

Chaturvedi, a 28-year-old activist, is one of four key whistle-blowers in the Vyapam scam, which made even international headlines for the death of 44 people allegedly linked to scandal. It was only after a court order that the state police provided him security cover. PSOs, in batches of one or two, were assigned as bodyguards. But for this whistleblower, the security given to him is a “farce”. He had to ride pillion on a cycle with the PSO assigned to him.

Chaturvedi’s RTI reveals that two assistant platoon commanders — Hari Prasad and Ram Lakhan Sharma — had given it in writing that they are not trained to provide security to someone who moves around on a bicycle. “I have sympathy for the PSOs, but I am helpless. I am not rich enough to buy a four-wheeler,” he said.

Chaturvedi exposed those close to some powerful politicians in MP for their role in the MPPEB scam. In 2015, he was surrounded and pinned down near Gwalior’s Dal Bazar area and beaten up even as his PSO looked on. Police are clueless to this day on the two attackers. Despite alleged threats and attempts to kill him, Chaturvedi says he will not budge from his mission. He says there are veiled threats from the scam-tainted that he could be “cut to pieces”.

He had started own investigation into the scam in 2009 and four years later, his evidence led to a police case that blew the lid off political leaders and police officers linked to ruling BJP and Congress.