Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 18: Two groups of people were seen hurrying toward the Central Stadium here Friday. One was made up of common citizens on their way to meet Chief Minister Oomen Chandy with their woes and the other comprised activists of the Left opposition shouting slogans he should resign in the wake of what has come to be called the solar scam
This was the third edition of Chandy’s UN award-winning mass contact programme, during which he heard the woes of the people from the capital district on issues like conversion of ration cards, delay in getting government certificates and financial assistance and resolving title and ownership deeds then direct officials to do their best to sort out the issues.
Similar programmes have been scheduled for the remaining 13 districts of the state.
Inside the venue, the people were given tokens and patiently waited for their turn.
“I have come to the programme to sort out the ownership of a piece of land that my sister has brought but which has been caught in red-tapism. Since I have not registered, I will get my turn only in the evening but am prepared to wait,” said Thomas Joseph.
When Chandy and his ministers walked towards the dais, the Left parties, led by their district and state level leaders, squatted on the road – but did not try to prevent people from entering the stadium.
“This programme is a learning experience for me on how the people can be brought closer to government and its programmes. What I have done after learning from the previous two editions is to bring 45 new government orders that have re-written age-old rules, cut red-tapism and delays and bridge the gap between the people and the government,” Chandy told the huge gathering.
With the previous editions having been held in 2004 and 2011, the state government had announced the third in the series a few months ago and had asked people to register their complaints. A staggering 14,957 complaints have been received.
“Irrespective of what the time is, I will go after meeting each and every one of those registered and also those who have not registered. To a large extend we will see if we can solve these issues today itself,” Chandy told IANS.
Even as Chandy started meeting the complainants, outside the venue, two Left legislators – V.Sivankutty and Koliacode Krishnan Nair, both of the CPI-M, developed uneasiness and had to be taken to hospital.
The police also got into the act and slowly removed the top Left leaders, including legislators and parliament members, form their protest site.
“In the past one week, we have been hearing of the Nobel Prize being announced. If there’s one such prize for fraud and cheating, Chandy would beat everyone and get it because he is the master of this craft,” said former speaker and top CPI-M leader M. Vijayakumar, while addressing the activists.
“We have nothing personal against the chief minister and we are not against the people who have come to sort out their woes, but we are against the manner in which he has handled the solar scam issue and that’s the reason we are protesting,” said CPI legislator V.S. Sunilkumar.
In all this, two Left parliamentarians – A. Sampath and T.N.Seema – expressed their annoyance at being prevented from entering the stadium and said they had brought this to the notice of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha secretariats.
The solar scam has been making headlines in Kerala since June 3, when a woman named Saritha Nair was arrested. Two weeks later, her live-in partner Biju Radhakrishnan was also taken into custody.
The couple allegedly defrauded people by offering solar energy solutions at huge discounts, and often lured people into investing in their enterprise by citing an acquaintance with people in high office in the state government.
Telephone call records of the couple revealed they had been in close touch with influential people in Kerala.
While one member of Chandy’s personal staff was arrested in the case and released on bail later, two others lost their jobs.
The Kerala Police, which is investigating the case, recorded Chandy’s statement earlier this month.
(Sanu George can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)