Bandipur traffic ban: Rahul Gandhi assures legal help

Gandhi visited the five youths sitting on a relay hunger strike for 10 days against the night traffic ban on National Highway 766 that passes through the Bandipur Tiger reserve. Photo/Twitter (Rahul Gandhi)

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday visited the five youths sitting on a relay hunger strike for 10 days against the restriction on movement of vehicles on a national highway that passes through a tiger reserve in neighbouring Karnataka.

Expressing solidarity with the youths, Gandhi spoke to them and said he hoped the issue would be resolved soon. He promised to make available legal help to solve the issue.

Gandhi, who reached the site of the protest at Freedom park here, said the youngsters represent the cause of Wayanad, his Lok Sabha constituency, and thanked them for their "sacrifice".

"They represent the suffering of the people here. All political parties are united as far as the night travel ban issue is concerned. There is no political difference on this," he said.

The movement of vehicles on a stretch of the national highway in Kerala is banned from 9 pm to 6 am to reduce disturbance to wildlife in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve.

Gandhi recently met Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in New Delhi and discussed the hardships faced by people of Wayanad due to the ban of traffic.

Demanding that the ban be lifted, the youths are sitting on a hunger strike.

Gandhi said no travel ban is imposed in similar cases in other parts of the country.

The Congress leader promised to the people of Wayanad that "best legal resources" would be made available in this matter.

"I have spoken to our legal experts to deal with this issue. We will have the best legal resource of this country for the cause of Wayanad. I wanted you to know that I stand with you and we are going to go intelligently and sensitively work on this matter," he said.

He pointed out that he had raised the issue in Parliament.

On Tuesday, the Centre assured Kerala CM Vijayan that a committee would be formed to study the ban. Thousands of farmers and students have taken out long marches against the ban.

The Kerala government has suggested the construction of an elevated stretch through the core area of the tiger reserve.

However, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar in a letter to Vijayan last month stated that the state's recommendation had been discussed and it was suggested that a 'status quo' be maintained.

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