Kerala is often titled as the model State nationally and internationally, but there is another side to Kerala too. This alter-ego has erupted in the form of ‘scams’, and exposed the true intentions of many people in power. Through these scams, we came to know of the corruptive reality that exists in our system. Quite naturally, these expose portray the alarming state of affairs, making us feel overwhelmed thinking about where we all are headed to.
Here’s a list of the biggest scams that shook the State, and made people question their faith in the system.
Gold Smuggling Scam
Let’s first talk about the elephant in the room, the Gold Smuggling Scam. 30 kg of gold worth Rs 15 crore was seized from a diplomatic cargo at the Thiruvananthapuram airport. Diplomatic cargo is devoid of routine examination by the Customs Department officials at airports. But, a tip was received that gold was being hidden in the cargo which was listed as noodles, dates, bathroom equipment, and biscuits and on paper. Sarith Kumar, who was a former PRO of the UAE Consulate, had gone to claim the cargo despite being removed from the job. This sparked suspicion. The customs denied Sarith, and checked the cargo themselves. Thus, the Gold Smuggling Scam came to light.
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Kerala Life Mission Scam
The LIFE (Livelihood, Inclusion and Financial Empowerment) Mission project is the Government’s housing scheme for the homeless and landless, which also happens to include a hospital project at Wadakkanchery. When the opposition parties alleged that various political leaders and officials had accepted commissions for the implementation of the LIFE Mission Project, the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau went digging. Large sums of money which were supposed to be used for building homes were taken as commission. This happened a few days after the Gold Smuggling Scam erupted in the state.
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Bar Bribery Scam
Back in 2014, the then Bar Hotel Owners Association President Biju Ramesh had alleged that KM Mani, the then Finance Minister, had taken a bribe of Rs 1 crore from bar owners to renew the licences of 400 bars. Following the allegation, he was forced to step down as Finance Minister. The bar bribery case proved to be the biggest curse in Mani’s political career.
Solar Panel Scam
In 2013, Saritha S Nair and Biju Radhakrishnan, Directors of Team Solar Energy Company, was found defrauding many well-known investors involved in the project. Around Rs 7-10 (could have been more) crores were taken from them without delivering what was promised. During the investigation, information about sexual and financial favours to politicians, officials, and bureaucrats, including Sarita making sexual harassment allegations against prominent politicians, broke out.
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Palarivattom Flyover Scam
The Palarivattom flyover, which was supposed to last 100 years, was inaugurated in 2016 but was later shut down in May 2019 due to the appearance of cracks in the structure. The Government hired a team from IIT Madras and appointed E. Shreedharan, Metro engineer, to investigate the extent of damage and assess the flyover’s stability. Both the parties had confirmed that the flyover would have to be demolished and rebuilt, owing to its instability and inadequate usage of materials. A separate investigation by the Vigilance and Anti-corruption Bureau (VACB) found links to the misuse of the mobilisation advance given to the contractor by the PWD department. Other issues, like the corruption in the PWD and RBDCK was also exposed.
Palmolein Oil Import Scam
The Kerala Government under K. Karunakaran decided to import 15,000 tonnes of palm oil from Power and Energy Ltd., a Singapore-based company, at an import price that was way higher than the International market price. A loss of more than 2.32 crores was incurred by the State exchequer. The import order was signed by the then Kerala Food Secretary, P. J. Thomas. The opposition party smelt foul play and alleged that a tender wasn’t issued and was given arbitrarily to the Power and Energy Ltd. A vigilance case was filed against K. Karunakaran and seven others who were involved.
Titanium Corruption Case
The UDF Government paid Rs 256 core to Mecon India Ltd. for setting up a treatment plant at the State-owned Travancore Titanium Products Ltd. The contract stated that Rs 72 crore was forwarded to two foreign companies located in England and Finland. But during the vigilance probe, they weren’t able to pinpoint where the money actually went as a global tender wasn’t issued. A corruption of Rs 80. crore was involved in the setting up the plant. The Government let the CBI probe the case due to its international affiliation.
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SNC-Lavalin Kerala Hydroelectric Scandal
There was an agreement between the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) and the Canadian firm SNC Lavalin for the renovation of three hydel power projects at the cost of Rs 239.81 crore. The project completion was delayed by two years, causing liability of Rs 69.83 crore. In addition, the equipment given by SNC Lavalin was defective. As per the agreement, SNC Lavalin were to mobilise Rs 98 crore for the construction of Malabar Cancer Centre, but only Rs 8.98 crore was received. All in all, the Government had suffered a huge loss, around Rs 374.5 crore. The CBI was asked to probe the case, and submitted a report which had Pinarayi Vijayan as one of the accused. A special court later allowed his discharge petition.
These scams have thrown light to the darkest sides of Kerala. If we have missed out on mentioning any prominent scams that have occurred, do mention it in the comments below.
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