Kerala asks SC to remove traffic ban in Bandipur

Kerala rakes up minorities' “hardships” for lifting traffic ban in Bandipur

The state asked the court to allow the elevated highway as suggested in the report of Ministry of Union Road Transport and Highways

Bandipur road (DH Photo)

The Kerala government on Wednesday made a fresh plea before the Supreme Court to lift the night traffic ban on roads passing through Bandipur Tiger Reserve, claiming that Wayanad, being the most backward district and with highest minority population, was badly hit by it.

“NH 766 is the sole means of transport for the rescue workers to access Wayanad, a hilly district in Western Ghat which gets cut off during floods and natural calamities. It is also a survival route for the people of Wayanad which lacks air, rail and water connectivity,” the state government said.

In an additional affidavit, the CPM-led government further claimed most of its consumer items like vegetables, rice, poultry for the Malabar region came through the NH 212 (now called NH 766), which was an economic link road that connected Kozhikode and Wayanad to Bangalore and Mysore.

It is the easiest route to connect the States of Kerala and Karnataka. Many Keralites worked in these cities. Their daily commute is also very much affected by this ban, it said.

Wayanad, represented by Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, is one of the most backward districts in the state and one among the 90 minority concentrated areas in India, it pointed out.

The state asked the court to allow the elevated highway as suggested in the report of Ministry of Union Road Transport and Highways.

It said the report suggesting alternate route by merging NH-275 and State Highway 90 may not be considered as its officials were not involved in the consultation process. This would destroy around 250 hectors of dense forest and badly affect the ecosystem, besides taking a huge chunk of agricultural land.

“The alternate route suggested by Karnataka also goes through Nagarhole Tiger Reserve in Karnataka and Tholpetty wild life sanctuary in Kerala where wild animals are wandering freely in heavy numbers and it will take more time for the land acquisition for developing the route. Moreover it will also require clearance from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate change,” it said.

The Kerala government maintained that the freedom of movement and convenience of human beings were curtailed in the name of free movement of wild animals.

“Due to the prevailing night traffic ban (between 9 pm and 6 am), the people of Kerala suffer innumerable hardships,” it said.