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BJP-RSS 'Link', Alleged Scam in MP: RTI Findings on NTA Chairman Pradeep Joshi

RTI Activist Ajay Dubey claimed Joshi was appointed as MPPSC chairman in 2006 on the recommendation of the Sangh.

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“Pradeep Kumar Joshi’s appointment as MPPSC (Madhya Pradesh Public Service Commission) chairman in 2006 came after a recommendation from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS),” activist Ajay Dubey alleged, based on findings under the Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005. "There were huge irregularities in the recruitment of professors in 2009, during Joshi’s tenure."

Joshi – who's the chairperson of the National Testing Agency (NTA) – is still at the helm of the body currently under severe public scrutiny in the light of several entrance exams being cancelled, postponed or re-conducted.

Amid the ongoing row over the NEET-UG medical entrance exam, which has now reached Parliament, NTA’s Director General (DG) Subodh Kumar Singh was removed from his post on 22 June and put on compulsory wait in the Department of Personnel and Training. Kumar reported to Joshi, NTA’s chairperson and the highest post in the organisation. While the DG is responsible for day-to-day functioning, it is the chairperson who takes decisions. So far, Joshi is continuing in his position.

While Joshi served as the chairperson of the State Public Service Commissions in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh before he assumed the charge of UPSC in August 2020 and NTA on 14 August 2023, his appointment and tenure in MPPSC has been a subject of great scrutiny among transparency activists.

What are these alleged links? The Quint speaks to RTI activists and petitioners in the case. The Quint also reached out to Pradeep Joshi via email and will update the story once he responds.

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‘NTA Chief Linked to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Murli Manohar Joshi’

Born in Uttarakhand's Almora in 1957, Joshi completed both his post graduate degree and his PhD degree in commerce Kanpur University. He was a lecturer at Vikramajit Singh Sanatan Dharma College in Kanpur, followed by Bareilly College in Uttar Pradesh. He was also a reader at the Department of Business Administration at Rohilkhand University in Bareilly. He also served as professor, head, and dean at the Faculty of Management Studies in Rani Durgavati University in Madhya Pradesh's Jabalpur from May 2000 to 12 June 2006.

However, according to a confidential intelligence report received through an RTI filed by activist Dubey, Joshi was associated with former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and BJP veteran Dr Murli Manohar Joshi.  

The report, accessed by The Quint, is dated 8 June 2006, prepared by Special Branch, Madhya Pradesh and signed by IGP AK Soni. It was sent to Iqbal Singh Bains, then secretary to Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The report states:

“Prof Pradeep Kumar Joshi, age 48 years, is posted as Professor in Rani Durgavati University. Shri Joshi has been holding the post of Director, Management Studies since last 2 years. He is also known to be close to BJP leader Shri Murli Manohar Joshi and former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Joshi was found to have no criminal record. His character and image are good.” 

Dubey alleged to The Quint that a handwritten note, signed by “Sangh Pracharak Vinodji,” was also a part of the intelligence report sent to then chief minister. 

“The note read – Pradeep Joshi headed Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). Currently, he is a professor at Rani Durgavati University in Jabalpur. He wants to become chairperson of Public Service Commission,” Dubey claimed based on documents retrieved under RTI.  

He added that Joshi was appointed MPPSC chairman in June 2006 on the recommendation of the Sangh “as is evident from his file.” 

‘Professor Recruitment Scam Under Joshi’s MPPSC Tenure’

In 2009, while Joshi was chairperson at MPPSC, discrepancies had emerged in the direct recruitment of first-class gazetted professors in the state government’s Higher Education Department. The matter had even reached the Madhya Pradesh High Court.  

The Quint spoke to the petitioner in the case Pankaj Prajapati, who alleged that ineligible professors had been appointed in the department based on fake experience certificates.

According to Prajapati, in 2009, the MPPSC issued an advertisement for direct appointment of professors, and it had required candidates to:

  1. have a PhD degree

  2. have 10 years of teaching experience to UG/PG classes.

All 385 vacancies were filled as per this eligibility criteria, as per MPPSC. However, according to a draft submitted by the state’s Higher Education Department in the high court, the teaching experience of 10 years needs to be counted after completion of the PhD degree.  

Prajapati, in his petition filed in 2016, alleged that at least 89 candidates were appointed without fulfilling this eligibility criteria and in contravention with the education department’s own submission in court.

He had demanded that their appointments be quashed, and an investigation be conducted. Joshi and MPPSC were both respondents in this petition. 

Prajapati told The Quint that while the court dismissed his petition, the Higher Education Department had formed a committee to look into alleged irregularities in hiring professors. The committee was headed by then Higher Education Commissioner Umakant Umrao, an IAS officer of 1996 Batch.

According to Umrao’s report, dated 1 October 2016, the experience letters seemed doubtful, yet their authenticity was not checked by the authorities concerned. He recommended an “investigation by a high-level and independent institution such as STF (Special Task Force), Lokayukta, or Economic Offences Unit.” 

On 15 October 2016, Umrao was transferred to Narmadapuram Division of Hoshangabad as Commissioner. The Quint has reached out to Umrao and will update the story once he responds. 

Many of the professors appointed in an allegedly questionable manner, are now holding "eminent positions in the state government and state universities", a Bhopal-based RTI activist Anand Rai told The Quint.

Joshi served as MPPSC chief until 2011, when he joined the Chhattisgarh Public Service Commission and served as the Chairman till 2015. In May 2015, he became a member of the UPSC and was appointed as its chairperson on 7 August 2020.

We have reached out to Pradeep Joshi via email on these allegations and we will update the copy when he responds.

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What about the NTA’s Now Removed DG Subodh Kumar Singh?

Subodh Kumar Singh is a 1997 batch IAS officer from the Chhattisgarh cadre. Before he joined the NTA as DG in June last year, Singh served as additional secretary in the Department of Food and Public Distribution under the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs. 

Singh served in the Chhattisgarh Secretariat in different roles between 2009 and 2018, when BJP leader Raman Singh was the chief minister of the state for three consecutive terms.  

According to a report in The Indian Express, Singh has been credited with digitising the Chief Minister’s Office, transforming the state’s mineral sector and bringing road connections to the Naxal-hit areas.

Even though Subodh Singh is considered to be close to former chief minister Singh, he has steered clear of controversies.  

After Subodh Singh's removal, he is being replaced by Pradeep Singh Kharola, the chairman and MD of the India Trade Promotion Organisation, in the interim. Kharola, a retired 1985 batch IAS officer, oversaw the Pragati Maidan revamp ahead of the G20 Summit last year. He has also served as the secretary in the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation and as Director in the Union Ministry of Tourism.

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