Kerala's opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) has called for a state-wide shutdown on 10-07-2013 to press its demand for resignation of Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, whom it has accused of involvement in the solar panel scam.
The call for the 12-hour shutdown (6 am to 6 pm), taken at an emergency meeting of the LDF here, would mean all shops, establishments, and markets would be closed and no public transport vehicles would operate.
The LDF's demands that Chandy resign and face a judicial probe gathered strength after businessman Sreedharan Nair, who was cheated in the scam, on Monday told TV channels he was introduced to Chandy at his office here by prime accused Saritha S Nair July 9 last year.
The LDF said another reason for the shutdown was to protest the manner in which police lobbed a tear gas shell close to the opposition legislators, led by former chief minister V S Achuthanandan, in front of the state secretariat while they were addressing their supporters.
Achuthanandan, after complaining of breathlessness, was admitted to a private hospital along with former ministers C Divakaran and Surendran Pillai.
The scam relates to non-delivery of solar panels despite payments made for these and a proposal to set up a unit for solar panels by a con-couple (Saritha and Biju Radhakrishnan) whose links with Chandy's office were exposed following scrutiny of Saritha's telephone call list. An aide of Chandy has also been arrested in this connection.
The so-called solar panel scam erupted last month after Saritha Nair and her partner Biju Radhakrishnan, who launched a firm called Team Solar, were arrested on complaints that they had collected large sums of money from the public promising them solar panels but did not deliver the item. Chandy's name was dragged into the issue after his staff was found to have had close links with Nair and Radhakrishnan.
The ongoing Assembly session, spread over two phases, was rocked by this scandal. The Speaker Tuesday adjourned the House sine die with the opposition members continuing their tirades against Chandy.
A fraudulent solar energy company, which used two women to create extensive political contacts with links even to the Chief Minister's office has landed Kerala's UDF government in peril.
At least four Kerala Cabinet ministers, three MLAs and hordes of government officials besides a junior Central Minister had been roped in by the women and their phone call details are now out in the public. Team Solar, a solar energy company, duped several people offering to install solar power units for them..
The "solar scam" has created havoc for Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, whose government has a slim majority of two in the Assembly, as the Opposition alleges that he had connived with the racketeers.
The Opposition is stepping up the campaign for the resignation of the Chief Minister, whose personal staff were involved in the scam. Home Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, who attended the "house-warming" ceremony of one of the women, is in trouble.
The Chief Minister's rivals in his own party are tightening the screws on him. The role of the President of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee, Ramesh Chennithala, who has long been aspiring for the Deputy Chief Minister's post or at least the Home Ministry portfolio, will be crucial in how things shape up. The Congress's central leadership has ruled out any change of guard, though.
The three people behind Team Solar are in jail. One of the Chief Minister's personal aides has been fired and arrested. The director of the Public Relations Department, who allegedly received Rs 5 lakh from the Team Solar man, has been suspended and has gone underground fearing arrest.
One former minister had made nearly 500 calls to one of the women. The two women had extensively used their real and imaginary contacts with ministers and the Chief Minister's personal staff to secure business for the fraudulent Team Solar company. An Inspector General of Police, who is suspected to have got the call lists of the Team Solar women, is likely to face action.
Yet, for all this, the money involved in the scam is insignificant. The total sum Team Solar could raise by offering to install power units was less than Rs 10 crore going by the complaints from cheated customers and prospective business partners. But the damage the scam has done to the solar energy sector, a fast growing industry in Kerala, is incalculable. As the Leader of the Opposition V.S. Achuthanandan claimed in an article, "Solar energy has become a dirty term now."
Says Kuruvilla Chacko, an electrical engineer who recently set up a solar energy solutions start-up with his peers: "Solar (energy) is a four-letter word now and there seems to be a mass stigma attached to it. We had trouble finding office space in Kochi as building owners suspect some sex scandal."
Chacko points out that solar energy had emerged a sunshine industry in the past five years because of a high level of public awareness about green energy and thanks to government support.
Kerala's draft solar energy policy aims to generate 500 MW by 2017. Last year's monsoon failure and this summer's long power cuts gave a boost to solar energy.
In February, Union Minister of Non-conventional Renewable Energy Minister Farooq Abdullah launched a programme for setting up 10,000 onekW roof-top units under the National Solar Mission. Half of the Rs 2-lakh cost would be paid as subsidy by the Union and State governments. The project attracted a lot of new entrepreneurs to the industry. "There is a vast potential market waiting to be tapped, but the scam has killed it," Chacko laments. His start-up colleague Jose Thomas says that because of the scam, multinational companies wanting to invest and young engineers wanting to launch start-ups are shying away.
Source- Zee News, ET, Hindu