Bandipur: Wayanad fears lobbying within Kerala for road

As the Centre recently proposed developing alternative routes for the Bandipur highway connecting Kerala and Karnataka, a section of people of Wayanad fear lobbying from within Kerala for the alternative route, even as the Kerala Assembly unanimously passed a resolution against it.

According to some local people who recently staged a stir against the move to shut the Bandipur route, a lobby of politicians and businessmen of Kannur district in North Kerala are suspected to be lobbying for the alternative route as it will improve connectivity to places like Kodagu and Mysuru from Kannur.

Kerala Transport Minister A K Saseendran told DH that the Kerala government was strongly opposed to a total shutdown of the Bandipur stretch and would demand that the night traffic ban may continue, but by allowing a limited number of transport bus services from either state.

The state was studying the alternative routes proposed by the Centre and would submit a report to the Supreme Court within six weeks. He declined to comment on the allegation of lobbying for the alternative routes, maintaining that he was unaware if the alternative routes would be beneficial to Kannur.

Anto George, a leader of the action council that recently staged the stir in Wayanad, said that attempts were being made by vested interest groups to sideline those who staged the stir against the move to shut the Bandipur highway permanently and develop the alternative route, via Kutta-Gonikoppa (NH 275 and SH 90).

"We strongly fear that a lobby of Kannur district, which is the hometown of many senior leaders of the ruling CPM in Kerala, is favouring the alternative route as it will improve connectivity from the district to Mysuru and nearby parts of Karnataka," he said.

Another activist said that the alternative route would be also beneficial to the recently formed greenfield airport at Kannur as it would improve the airport's road connectivity to places like Mysuru and Kodagu. There were unconfirmed reports that many politicians had invested in real estate projects near Kannur airport and hence lobbying for the alternative route could not be ruled out, he said.

A prime concern of the people of Wayanad, especially Meenangadi, Bathery and Muthanga areas, was whether the NH 766 passing through Bandipur would be shut permanently. Many green activists of Wayanad have also urged the government that a status quo should be maintained on the Bandipur highway so that there will be only night traffic ban along the stretch.

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