The solar scam case from Kerala has reached a significant development: Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said cases of sexual assault will be registered against ex-Chief Minister Oommen Chandy and others based on the allegations made by prime accused in the solar scam, Saritha Nair, in a letter. He’s also specified that if it was found that anyone sought sexual favours, it would be investigated as a bribe.
News of the controversial solar scam first broke back in 2013. The Team Solar Energy Company (Team Solar) was a fraudulent Kerala solar panel company headed by Saritha Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan, and they together duped several people and organisations to the tune of about 70 crores. They would offer fraudulent business deals and offers for partnerships, or agree to install alternate energy sources and then fail to deliver the goods. Hilariously, they also awarded people the “Virgin Earth Golden Feather Environment Award” to get media coverage and visibility, which should just let you know how useful and meaningful awards like these generally are.
Anyway, the case became even more controversial because of Nair’s alleged links to powerful ministers, and her 2016 allegations that the then-Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy, had sexually exploited her after promising to help her fraudulent company. The popular word on the street and the automatic belief at that time was that Saritha used to offer sexual favours to powerful ministers: there was no reason for or proof of this belief at all, it was just what all of Kerala automatically decided to believe simply because Saritha was a visible woman who said that she’d been sexually harassed by the most powerful politician in the state.
Conversations and news reports on the scam and Saritha at the time abounded with references to Saritha’s sex life, luxurious lifestyle, and impeccable clothing (she’s always seen in a neatly pinned saree, never ties all her hair back, and always smiles in photographs) which for some reason truly seemed to infuriate and enrage a shocking number of Malayali men, or at least the kinds you meet in the comment sections. My personal theory, which takes it’s roots in Kerala’s reactions to Ranjini Haridas, is that they’re angry at themselves for being attracted to her and so deflect all their weird convoluted misogynistic rage towards her, but that could just be me.
Anyway, the solar scam case has taken a much darker and more significant turn now. The Kerala state cabinet has decided to investigate several prominent ministers, including the ex-Chief Minister, of the previous government with sexual assault, based on a letter written by Saritha in 2013, which details the allegations and names the attackers. It’s believed that Ernakulam Congress MLA Hidi Eden, former electricity minister Aryadan Muhammed, Konni MLA Adoor Prakash, Congress MP KC Venugopal, and Lok Sabha MP Jose K Mani and former Tourism Minister KP Anil Kumar are all mentioned in the letter, and Kerala’s current Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, has said that criminal cases will be filed against all named.
The Kerala government’s roaring enthusiasm to file cases here could have something to do with politics (given that the state cabinet is full of LDF ministers, and all those being charged are prominent and popular erstwhile rival UDF ministers), but it’s still encouraging that Saritha’s complaint is being taken seriously. It was almost alarming how everyone just wrote Saritha off and made cruel fun of her when she made public allegations of assault back in 2015. As for Saritha herself, she says the decision to investigate these ministers is justice for her, even though it is justice delayed.