Kerala, India's Solar Sector, Government Embroiled in Fraud Case

When the Indian state of Kerala recently drafted a solar energy policy which focuses on individual solar installations, it was supposed to bring some good news to the power-starved state.

But not long after, the budding solar energy market in Kerala found itself marred by controversy as a far-reaching fraud case came to involve government officials.

In early June 2013, Saritha S Nair of Vattapara, Chegannur and her boyfriend Biju Radhakrishnan were arrested for allegedly taking millions of rupees from people after she and her boyfriend promised them investments in solar power fields and wind mill farms in various parts of India. According to the couple's rhetoric, the solar and wind farms would produce energy, which would be sold to the power-starved Tamil Nadu for instant profits.

The pair allegedly lured people into contributing to the scheme with the promise that the victims would become part owners of the business and reap windfall returns. Nair and Radhakrishnan were running a firm called Team Solar Renewable Energy Solutions at Chittoor road in Kochi.

After their arrests, the scandal touched the state government as a number of personal assistants to Chief Minister of Kerala Oommen Chandy were sacked following their reported proximity to Vattapara and Radhakrishnan. The chief minister admitted that he himself had contact with Radhakrishnan. But he refused to resign despite opposition protests against him.

Ucilia Wang delved into the scheme on Tech blog Giga Om:

At the center of the brouhaha are two alleged crooks, Biju Radhakrishnan and Saritha S. Nair, who reportedly targeted doctors with their promise to install solar panels cheaply. They then took the money, turned off their phones and tried to disappear. Police have arrested both. Some of the Kerala state officials have since been accused of helping the two.

Solar Panels in Sadhana Forest community, Auroville, Tamil Nadu. Image from Flickr by Premsaagar Rose. CC BY-NC 2.0

Solar Panels in Sadhana Forest community, Auroville, Tamil Nadu. Image from Flickr by Premasagar Rose. CC BY-NC 2.0

Blogger Nikhil Narayanan ‏(@nikhilnarayanan) shared from a news report that the ring is large:

@nikhilnarayanan: Shalu Menon, the serial actress linked with Solar fraud case is a friend of @oommen_chandy‘s son, and nephew both- …

Superfatman ‏(@geophyraj) wrote:

@geophyraj: Kerala Govt. Suspended a state Govt. employee because he shared a newslink about the Govt's fraud in Solar Panels. Is Kerala in China?

Superfatman is referring here that the Chinese govt vowed to cancel its subsidy scheme for solar farms in 2013, due to heavy fraud.

As supply sources are drying up fast and existing productions are being scaled down, the power situation in Kerala looks pretty grim. Opposition leader VS Achuthanandan acknowledged this and said that despite the solar fraud case “the fact remains that solar energy has a huge potential in a state which is staring at an energy crisis”. 

Ucilia Wang suggests what lesson should be learnt from this fraud case:

Subsidizing solar installations has shown to be an important way to promote clean energy use. The growth of the solar markets in Europe, the United States and Japan provides proof. But those investments have to come with rules to regulate installers and protect consumers from fraud.

1 comment

  • I don’t quite see why fraud carried out by individuals should jeopardize Kerala’s solar energy policy. This is fraud carried out on individuals – not fraud against a solar subsidy.

    Better communication to help people understand what is on offer (and what is not) would certainly give some protection.

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