Karnataka eases border restrictions ahead of SC hearing

Setback for Karnataka govt as SC refuses to stay Kerala HC order on opening of borders
An ambulance driver waiting at the Kerala-Karnataka border at Thalapady to tranfer patients from ambulances coming from Mangalore to Kerala. Photo: Jibin Chembola

Karnataka has agreed to open its borders at Talapady to allow seriously ill patients to access hospitals on its side of the border, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Monday.

A medical team from Karnataka will be stationed at the Talapady check post to verify the claims of patients attempting to cross the border. “These patients should go with a medical certificate and should also reveal which hospital they want to visit,” the Chief Minister said.

Even while welcoming the gesture, Pinarayi said Kerala had never been rigorous about the cross-border movement of patients.

“We have made all arrangements for the smooth movement of patients living along the Karnataka and Tamil Nadu borders to visit hospitals in Wayanad,” the Chief Minister said. He said people living in Bairakuppa and Machur areas in Karnataka and Panthalloor and Gudallur in Tamil Nadu depend on hospitals in Wayanad.

“Last day, 29 people from Bairakuppa and 44 from Tamil Nadu had visited hospitals in Wayanad,” he said.

The Kerala government had told the Supreme Court on Monday that Karnataka's blocking National Highways and border roads due to coronavirus, preventing people's access to medical treatment and movement of essential goods, is violative of fundamental rights of the Citizens.

Eight lives have been lost till date on account of the blockade of border roads by Karnataka and one person had died after an appeal was filed by Karnataka government in apex court against the Kerala High Court order for opening the borders.

The top court, while posting the matter for hearing on April 7, had on Friday sought responses from the Centre and the Kerala government on the plea of Karnataka challenging the high court order for opening of borders to ensure movement of essential supplies amid the coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic.

Kasaragod is the northernmost district of the state and it borders Dakshin Kannada district of Karnataka, and many people are dependent on hospitals and medical facilities available in Mangalore and Sullya in Dakshin Kannada district because they are the nearest towns.

From Thalapady in Manjeshwar Taluk of Kasaragod district, there is only 15 kilometres to Mangalore.

Alternate routes suggested by Karnataka are either circuitous or create difficulties in so far as Kannur district in Kerala is concerned due blockade of traffic.

The roads leading to Mangalore are seen blocked by dumping piles of soil fully blocking the vehicular movement including ambulances plying to Mangalore for medical emergencies for patients in Kasaragod and even there are instances where roads are blocked by Karnataka inside the geographical area of Kerala.

Kerala said Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa had earlier openly declared that the blockade at Kerala-Karnataka border would not be removed.

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