Rahul to visit Wayanad to support youth protesting ban on night travel
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi will arrive in his constituency in Wayanad on Tuesday to meet the people who are on hunger strike in Sultan Bathery against the ban on night commuting along the Kozhikkode-Bangaluru National Highway 766 that passes through the Bandipur tiger reserve.
All political parties in Wayanad have come together to form an action council and launched an indefinite strike saying night travel ban has crippled their lives. The movement of traffic through the forest was banned from 9 pm to 6 am in an effort to reduce disturbance to wildlife. Though Kerala protested vehemently, the Supreme Court had upheld the ban last month and asked authorities to develop an alternate route.
“I stand in solidarity with the youth on an indefinite hunger strike since September 25 protesting against the daily 9-hour traffic ban on NH 766 that caused immense hardships to lakhs of people in Kerala and Karnataka,” Gandhi tweeted on Sunday supporting the ongoing protest.
He urged both, state and central governments, to safeguard interests of the local community. But green activists have criticized his tweet.
After the SC verdict, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had proposed an elevated highway through the national park connecting Wayanad with Mysuru and Bengaluru but the union environment ministry had turned down his proposal. The state said the ban was affecting people of at least three districts, Wayanad, Kozhikkode and Malappuram.
The night traffic ban issue is almost a decade-old. The Karnataka Forest Department had introduced the ban in 2009 after some animal-hit cases. It was challenged in the Karnataka HC which later upheld it. After several rounds of legal battles the Supreme Court also upheld the verdict and asked authorities to develop an alternate route.
The length of NH 766 that connects Kerala and Karnataka is 272-km and out of these 34.6 km passes through two national parks, Bandipur and Wayanad. At least 24.4 km of the highway passes through protected areas of Karnataka and 10.2 km through Kerala.
After the SC directive, Karnataka forest officials and the National Tiger Conservation Authority have identified an alternate route. But people of Wayanad say it will entail a detour of 40 km and it will affect some of the sprawling townships like Sultan Bathery.
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