A Kerala MP moved the Supreme Court on Monday following the death of a 70-year-old woman turned away from the Kerala-Karnataka border by the Karnataka police on Sunday despite repeated requests. This was the second such incident in two days.
The border has been closed at 21 places, with 17 roads that connect Dakshin Kannada to Kerala blocked with barricades and piles of mud, The NewsMinute reported, amid a 21-day national lockdown to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Kasaragod MP Rajmohan Unnithan moved court seeking direction to the Karnataka government to open its border for smooth movement of ambulances and other emergency vehicles during the lockdown.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan had twice written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the importance of the state highway and its necessity for movement of essential commodities between the state. On Sunday, he also brought to the PM’s attention the death of the critically ill, elderly woman.
Vijayan called the Thalassery-Coorg State Highway 30, connecting Kerala with Coorg in Karnataka via Veerajapetta, “a lifeline for the flow of essential commodities to Kerala.”
“People of Kasaragod depend heavily on hospitals in Karnataka. Hundreds of patients visit Mangaluru for dialysis and for emergency medical care. Karnataka’s decision to blocking the borders has put the lives of these patients in trouble,” he wrote.
The woman, who suffered from a kidney disease, was being taken to a hospital in Mangaluru for treatment after she developed health complications, according to Malayala Manorama.
A day earlier, police had stopped a vehicle that was taking a 60-year-old Manjeshwaram to a hospital in Mangaluru. The man later died because of breathing difficulties, the report said.
Dakshina Kannada District Collector Sindhu Roopesh told TNM that the decision to block people’s movement through Thalappady in Kasargode was made by the Karnataka government.
“We have allowed essential goods service through Thalappady. But people’s movements are restricted and everywhere, it’s the same,” she told TNM.
The movement of trucks and lorries carrying essential commodities between Karala and Karnataka is allowed only through Thalapady check post on NH 66.
Minister-in-charge of Dakshina Kannada, Kota Sreenivas Poojary, and Dakshina Kannada MP Nalin Kumar both told Manorama that the restrictions could not be relaxed because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
In his plea to the Supreme Court, the Kasargod MP has called the blockade is a clear violation of Articles 21 and 19(d) of the Constitution at a time when supply of commodities is hit hard and the entire country is fighting a medical emergency. He has sought a direction to Karnataka to register an FIR and constitute a Special Investigation Team (SIT) under the supervision of the court to enquire against the authorities concerned including the police officials whose action led to the death of two citizens.
Pinarayi’s letters to Modi
Pinarayi Vijayan sought Modi’s intervention on Sunday—the second time in two days—to ensure vehicles carrying essential commodities to the state were not blocked at the borders by Karnataka during the national lockdown.
In his letter to Modi, Pinarayi said it was “incorrect” to portray certain districts in the state as “highly affected” by the coronavirus.
Karnataka had justified blocking roads pointing that majority of the positive cases were from the bordering districts in Kerala and opening of the inter-state routes would lead to possibilities of the infection reaching the other side, Vijayan said.
However, this was “totally contrary” to the facts and ground realities, he said adding the incident of the virus spread in Kerala and border districts has been mainly noticed among people returning from abroad.
While pointing that the state had 165 COVID-19 cases as of Saturday and 1,34,370 were under observation as a precautionary measure, he said not all of them were positive for the virus.
The blockade by Karantaka police in the border areas on Thalassery-Coorg state highway goes against facilitating movement of essential commodities across the country and this action was “totally unacceptable” and it should be lifted forthwith, he said.
At a time when the country faced an unprecedented crisis, “local and partisan vested interests” should not prevail over national interest, Vijayan said in his letter.
The Kerala government has no dispute on the fact that movement of people in a routine manner across the border during the lockdown should be prevented, but transportation of essential commodities should be ensured without any obstruction, he added.