Adding to suspended IAS officer M Sivasankar’s woes, the Vigilance department has added his name as the fifth suspect in the Vadakkanchery Life Mission scam. The information emerged after Vigilance officers submitted the report with the Vigilance Court in Thiruvananthapuram. The report also included Swapna Suresh, PS Sarith, and Sandeep Nair as suspects in their report, following which, the officers went to Attakulangara Women’s Prison to question Swapna. This would be the first that the Vigilance Department is questioning Swapna.
With a state agency moving against Sivasankar, the former Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, a suspicion arises as to the possible government part in the scams. Meanwhile, according to reports, the Enforcement Directorate has asked Chief Secretary Vishwas Mehta to provide details on all the projects that Sivasankar promoted. The main projects under question are K-FON, Smart City, E-Mobility, and Taurus Downtown projects. With the latest news coming in, the ED has received permission to question Swapna, Sarith, and Sandeep over three days.
The ED is following Sivasankar’s statement that Swapna had attempted to renew the Kochi Smart City project by getting Dubai-based TECOM Company into negotiations. According to Sivasankar, Swapna used her influence as the UAE Consulate General’s Secretary to do so. With this, ED suspects Swapna’s involvement in many other projects and they are probing into the main Kerala projects with the suspicion that there might have been black money dealings or real estate investments.
Among the projects in question, the Kerala Fibre Optic Netwo (K-FON) has been an ambitious attempt to offer Internet at low rates. The K-FON aimed at using Kerala State Electricity Board’s distribution network to provide high-speed, scalable fibre network to low income families as well as government institutions. The project was conceptualised after Sivasankar became the IT Secretary in 2016, before which he was the KSEB Chairman. The allegations against the project started with the IAS officer assigning Pricewaterhouse Coopers the Project Management Unit without calling for tenders. The company also recruited Swapna Suresh to Space Park for a huge salary, and Sivasankar was in charge of recruitment.
As the case against Sivasankar tightens, opposition parties have taken a strong stand against the government’s notion that the government is not involved in the scams. Opposition Leader Ramesh Chennithala said, “The real culprit is Pinarayi Vijayan. How can corruption happen in the Life Mission without the CM knowing about it?” He added that with a state agency connecting the dots, the accusations get stronger and that the state government must remove their opposition to CBI probing the Life Mission scam. “With Sivasankar being named as the fifth suspect, the role of the government in the scam is getting clearer,” Ramesh said.