Udayavni Special

The Great Divide: K’taka-Kerala border ordeal

Team Udayavani, Jul 6, 2020, 5:31 PM IST

Photo credit: Vasanth Konaje

Kasaragod\Mangaluru: Amidst the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and it being declared a pandemic worldwide, various governments in the country have taken steps to control its spread, one such step taken by the governments of Karnataka and Kerala to close down its border has become a matter of dispute and controversy.

In the month of April, Kerala was one of the worst-hit states by COVID-19 and a substantial number of active cases were from the district of Kasaragod.

Kasaragod shares its borders with Karnataka in the north with very close proximity to the city of Mangaluru via the National Highway 66 (NH-66), therefore, Karnataka decided to close up its border with Kasaragod completely, in order to stop the spread of the virus.

Though being a major city, Kasaragod was dependent on Mangaluru for many things, most important of them being emergency health care services, education, and employment and closing up of the border led to plenty of problems to be faced by the people of Kasaragod.

Several people in the district also lost their lives as they could not go to Mangaluru to receive timely health care. Fed up with this people’s representative of the district approached the Kerala High Court asking for the opening up of the border.

The High Court issued notices to Karnataka authorities, conducted hearings, and directed the Union to open up the borders in question immediately to prevent further loss of lives in the border district.

Karnataka then appealed against the judgment before the Supreme Court which heard the matter along with a similar petition (against Karnataka’s actions) as was before the High Court.

The Supreme Court called for the Union and the two states to discuss the matter and formulate parameters for the passage of patients for urgent medical treatment.

Both the states then made an agreement that non-COVID-19 patients will be allowed to cross the border only after applying for the pass. Both the states then started issuing emergency passes as per the SOP.

On June 3 both the district administrations decided to issuse daily pass for a month for the employees as most of them were about to lose their jobs.

Speaking with this regard, Pradeep, a resident of Manjeshwar said, ” As we live in this uncertain times, this gave rise of unusual legal issues, we never thought there would be a day when the interstate movement of people would be a legal issue.”

“I work in Mangaluru and my house is in Manjeshwar, during lockdown 1, I stayed back at home as I did not have any other option and it was the best for me, but even after the lockdown norms were eased we face a lot of problem because of the border dispute. However, after two and a half months, the district administration agreed to issue a daily pass. After availing for the pass on June 8 I reported back to duty,” said Pradeep.

“Every day when we go to Mangaluru we have to undergo thermal screening and then sign a register in both the check-posts set up at the border by the Karnataka and Kerala police. During our return too we have to undergo the same procedure. In the initial days, we had to wait for more than an hour at the border, however, eventually, the waiting time reduced,” he said.

“As the passes were issued only till June 30, I was worried as in what to do after June 30, but the district administrations extended the pass till July 11,” Pradeep added.

Meanwhile, another resident Ashwin said, “So far traveling between Kerala and Karnataka was never an issue, I studied in Mangaluru and now I’m working there. Unlike others, I did not have work from home option, therefore, I had to take leave for over two months. However, on June 5, I reported to my work after availing for daily pass. I crossed the border after undergoing tests and signing for the documentation purpose, I could not believe that I actually crossed the border. I felt really relaxed and was extremely happy. I never thought that we would face a day where crossing the Kerala-Karnataka border would feel like an achievement.”

“The Karnataka and Kerala police are really doing a great job. It really takes great courage to do what they are doing and hats-off to all of them,” said Ashwin.

He further added, “Kerala government too has done a wonderful job in COVID-19 control so far, keeping the numbers at a very low level and COVID-19 control efforts by Kerala have been widely appreciated. Our state has been held around the world as a model for preventing the spread of COVID-19.”

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