New Delhi: Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi met Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan here on Tuesday, during which they discussed the issues of night traffic ban on National Highway (NH)-766 and implications of proposed alternative route. He also discussed post flood relief and rehabilitation efforts in the state with the CM.
"I am not going to get into details, but basically we mentioned the flood situation and the need for quick compensation, the night travel ban and the troubles the people are facing there," Gandhi told reporters.
The former Congress chief said he told Pinarayi Vijayan that he wanted to give a sense to the government that this was a serious situation, which needed to be addressed urgently.
Asked about the chief minister's response, Gandhi said, "He said they are talking to the Centre and they are trying. He assured us that they are trying to resolve the issue. It is causing a lot of pain to the people of Kerala and Wayanad and I think it needs to be tackled at the earliest."
Gandhi was accompanied by party general secretary KC Venugopal and I C Balakrishnan, the Congress MLA from Sulthan Bathery that falls within his Lok Sabha constituency Wayanad.
Bandipur night traffic ban
The length of the NH-766 is 272 km, and 34.6 km of this passes through the Bandipur and Wayanad national parks. The road cuts through 19.7 km of the core zone of Bandipur and 4.5 km of its buffer zone. In Wayanad, the division is 4.8 km of the core zone and 5.8 km of the buffer zone. In all, 24.2 km of the highway passes through protected areas in Karnataka, and 10.4 km through protected areas in Kerala.
The night traffic ban was introduced following a directive from the Mysuru Deputy Commissioner in 2009 to provide wild animals a reprieve from vehicular movement. The ban is from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. It was challenged in the High Court of Karnataka, but the decision was upheld. The matter is now being heard in the Supreme Court.
On Sunday, Gandhi had said that the nine-hour traffic ban on the national highway passing through the Bandipur reserve has caused hardship to lakhs of people in Kerala and Karnataka and asked the central and state governments to safeguard the interests of local communities while protecting the environment.
"I stand in solidarity with the youth on an indefinite hunger strike since September 25th protesting against the daily 9-hour traffic ban on NH-766 that has caused immense hardship to lakhs of people in Kerala and Karnataka," the former Congress president had tweeted.
"I urge the central and state governments to safeguard the interests of local communities while upholding our collective responsibility to protect our environment," he added in the tweet.
Last month, Pinarayi Vijayan had batted in favour of an elevated highway through the Bandipur National Park connecting Wayanad in Kerala and Mysore in Karnataka.
The ban has been affecting the people of Wayanad, Kozhikode and Malappuram districts.
(With inputs from PTI)