Wayanad travel ban: Action panel miffed as centre favours alternate route

Wayanad travel ban: Action panel miffed as centre favours alternate route
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Bathery: The Kerala government has been blamed for oversight as the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has' supported an alternate path as a solution to the ban on night travel through a stretch of the National Highway (NH) 766 passing through the forests on the border of the state with Karnataka.

The National Highway and Railway Action Committee, based in Wayanad, is upset after the Ministry in an affidavit filed with the apex court favoured an alternative road via Kutta and Gonikoppal in the Kodagu district of Karnataka as a way out of the travel problems faced by the residents of Wayanad district in Kerala.

(Kutta is a village near Gonikoppal town.)

The state government did not take up the matter effectively with the Central government, alleged the office-bearers of the Action Committee.

Moreover, Kerala government neither launched efforts to compel the Union Environment Ministry to set up a panel to study the issue as the Ministry had earlier promised nor held talks with Karnataka to find a practical solution, the Committee claimed.

It is also pointed out that major lapses on the part of Kerala government included its failure to present the resolution passed by the Assembly on the issue before the apex court and argue against the alternate route. Kerala also did not try to convince the Court of the need to open NH 766 round-the-clock.

A meeting of the Action Committee urged the state government to take up the case earnestly.

Senior advocates P N Raveendran and P S Sudheer appeared for the Committee in the Supreme Court.

Wayanad had recently witnessed a spirit civil campaign against the ban on night traffic along the NH stretch passing through forests in a bid to protect animals. People here are also concerned about the plans to close day traffic also along the route. They have been facing untold misery over the last decade with the curbs on traffic movement at night.

The Railway Action Committee had earlier warned that a lobby was at work to sabotage the litigation against the night travel ban similar to the vested interests that succeeded in dropping plans for a railway track through Wayanad.

Meanwhile, the district unit of the farmers’ body ‘Karshika Purogamana Samithy’ also accused the state and central governments of apathy over the issue which led to the submission of the affidavit favouring the Kutta-Gonikoppal route.

However, there is six weeks’ time for the central and state authorities to present the real facts before the court, said the farmers’ organisation.

Meet to be called

On the other hand, C K Saseendran, MLA, said that a discussion would be arranged between Kerala government officials and the advocates’ forum set up by the Action Committee before a new affidavit is submitted. “The government has consented to hold such talks,” said the MLA.

Saseendran of the CPM represents the Kalpetta legislative assembly constituency in Kerala.

The new affidavit would include the views of the forum advocates, added Saseendran.

“When the Supreme Court considered the case on Friday, senior advocate Prasanth Bhushan appeared for me. The court has made it clear that it would give an opportunity to the parties concerned to present the issue of travel woes once again,” Saseendran added.

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