Bandh in Kerala over solar scam

Protest by Left organisations turns violent; 30 policepersons and 50 protesters injured

By M Suchitra
Published: Wednesday 10 July 2013

Thiruvananthapuram city turned into a battlefield on July 9 when Left organisations engaged in pitched battles with the police, demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy over his alleged links with a couple involved in a solar scam that has rocked the state. After the violence, the Left parties called for bandh on Wednesday.

The scam relates to alleged cheating of several persons by Saritha Nair and her accomplice Biju Radhakrishnan by offering to bag solar and wind projects from the government and establishing solar energy plants and wind mills (see box). The two have been arrested along with actress Shalu Menon.

The protesters pelted stones and threw petrol bombs and firewood. To counter them, the police used water cannons and tear gas. The battle continued for three hours near the state secretariat. More than 30 policepersons and over 50 protestors were injured.

Leader of Opposition V S Achuthanandan was admitted to a hospital after he complained of breathlessness and uneasiness when a tear-gas shell went off very close to place where he was on a sit-in protest in front of the secretariat.

After the violence near the secretariat, protests were held in many places in the city. Protesters pelted stones in many places. The office of the Union minister of state for human resource development, Shashi Tharoor, in the state capital was damaged in stone pelting.

Confrontations between the Congress and Left parties were reported from many places on Wednesday during the bandh. Due to the continuing turmoil in the post-budget session, Kerala Assembly was adjourned on Tuesday, nine days before schedule.

What the solar scam is all about
One Biju Radhakrishnan and his wife Saritha S Nair floated Team Solar and two other companies and signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with various individuals for helping them to bag solar and wind projects from the government and establishing solar energy plants and wind mills. Police have registered 16 criminal cases for cheating people. Both of them have been arrested. As per the police records, they have pocketed amounts between Rs 5 lakh to R 1 crore from the victims.

Team Solar is said to have close association with Kerala chief minister Oommen Chandy. They have made many phone calls to the chief minister’s office. Phone records have revealed a few Congress ministers and leaders and the members of the state Legislative Assembly have received calls from Team Solar, and they have made calls to the company. The chief minister’s former personal assistant, Tenny Joppan, was arrested on June 29 this year. He is in judicial custody. The police case against him is that he had gone out of the way to help Saritha clinch a solar energy solution contract with R Sreedharan Nair from Pathanamthitta district.

Sreedharan Nair, in an affidavit submitted to the judicial magistrate of Pathanamthita, has said that he, along with the accused Saritha, has met the chief minister in his office in July last year. He has claimed that he has given a total of R 40 lakh to Team Solar because he gained confidence in the company after meeting the chief minister. He repeated the same in an exclusive interview given to a Malayalam news channel.

Solar scam has become a huge political controversy in the state. The opposition is demanding the chief minister’s resignation. The chief minister has made it clear that he would not step down from his office. He says the allegations against him are politically motivated.

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