The Supreme Court has directed the Union Health Secretary on Friday to have a meeting with chief secretaries of Kerala and Karnataka and decide how to facilitate the movement of people for medical treatment from Kasargod in Kerala in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The matter has been posted to 7 April.
Karnataka had moved the Supreme Court challenging the Kerala High Court order, on Thursday, directing the Centre to make sure to remove the barricades along the state border amid the nationwide lockdown. The Kerala High Court, while hearing a petition on Thursday, directed the neighbouring state to allow entry for patients from Kerala to Mangaluru.
It has been more than five days since road routes from Karnataka to Kerala, in particular the Kasaragod-Mangaluru border at Talappadi have been closed. The Kerala court had issued directions to the Centre and stated that any further delay could entail further loss of life in the state and ambulances need to be allowed at the earliest.
The petition stated that the Kerala High Court had overstepped its territorial jurisdiction under Article 226(2) of the Constitution.‘The court failed to consider that the hospitals in Mangaluru, Dakshin Kannada district, are already overburdened and the people residing in Mangaluru are in panic due to the increasing number of cases in Kerala, specially in Kasargod,’ the plea said, reported Live Law.
The PIL was filed after five deaths were reported from Manjeswaram in Kasaragod district after the borders were closed amid the lockdown over the coronavirus outbreak. The residents of the district are dependent on hospitals in Mangaluru as they are located close by, about 10-15 kilometres away.
Traders in Kerala said that lorries carrying vegetables, fruits, medicines and other provisions have been completely stopped at the border, squeezing supply in Kasaragod district. They said they are are managing with just 40 percent of produce available.
‘No Lives Should Be Lost in the Name of Fighting Coronavirus’
While hearing the petition, the Kerala High Court said, “The current problem should be resolved amicably. Both the union government and the Karnataka government should rise to the occasion,” reported ANI. The judge emphasised that ‘no lives should be lost in the name of fighting coronavirus’.
The bench asked the Karnataka Advocate General if Karnataka is not bound by the guidelines issued by the central government, which directs all states to ensure unhindered inter-state transport of essential goods and emergency services.
The advocate argued that the Karnataka government is prepared to write to the Centre seeking exceptions taking note of the emergency situation in Mangaluru, considering the hospitals in the district were already over-burdened and hence will not be able to cater to needs of patients from bordering places in Kerala.
Two persons died today after they were denied entry to hospitals in Mangaluru districts, reported Manorama.
Meanwhile, the Kerala government has been making arrangements to accommodate patients in Kannur and other districts in the state.
The Karnataka Advocate General had pointed that as there is a rise in the number of COVID 19 patients in Kasaragod, the transfer of patients may lead to transmission to those who have not been affected yet.
"“There is no animosity against people in Kerala. Mangaluru hospitals used to make special arrangements for patients from Kasaragod district all this while. The present restrictions are specially imposed in view of the crisis.”" - Karnataka Advocate General to the Kerala High Court
The border has been sealed by the Karnataka government as a preventive measure considering the high number of COVID-19 positive cases in Kasaragod.
As of 20 March, 97 cases of COVID-19 has been recorded in Kasaragod, the highest number recorded in a single district in Kerala.
Supplies Enough to Last Only 3 More Days in Kasaragod
K Ahmed Sheriff of the Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi, which is the state traders association, told The Quint, “Vegetables, fruits, rice, sugar... there is nothing coming in to Kasaragod.”
"“If this problem persists and they don’t open the borders soon, then we are in deep trouble. There won’t be essentials for the people here in another three days.”" - K Ahmed Sheriff, Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi
‘Spoke to Amit Shah About the Issue’: Kerala CM
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Monday that he hopes the issue will be resolved soon.
"“We hope that there shall be no border issues for the transport of goods. The centre has been very clear about this. Everyday state chief secretaries attend a video conference by the centre. The border issue has been raised there and it’s been assured that this problem shall be addressed.”" - Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala CM
“A chief minister-level intervention had also happened. When that failed to bring any result, I contacted the Prime Minister on Sunday, but could not reach him. However, Union Home Minister Amit Shah called back and he was briefed about the issues including the relations between Mangaluru and Kasaragod,” he added.
SC Plea Seeking Direction to Karnataka
Kasaragod MP Rajmohan Unnithan has also moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction to Karnataka to open the borders at Talappadi, and allow the movement of ambulances, emergency vehicles and other vehicles carrying essential and non-essential items.
21 Entry Points Closed
It was on 26 March that the Dakshina Kannada MP Nalin Kumar Kateel announced that Mangaluru was completely shut down, including for the passage of goods. He had even clarified all vehicles, including ambulances, would not be allowed to cross the border at all the 21 different entry points.
People living at the border have been increasingly worried because of the number of COVID-19 cases escalating in both states.
“People come to the border in ambulances and other vehicles. We will require experts and isolations facilities to make sure whether those who are coming have fever or not, and if they are COVID-19 positive. If we lose that front line of defence (screening), people start flowing in. This is dangerous for the entire district,” said V Ponnuraj, district-in-charge secretary of Dakshina Karnataka, which includes Mangaluru.
The Kasaragod traders’ association said the problem should be dealt with immediately “otherwise we have to begin our fight against hunger.”
Why So Many Cases in Kasaragod?
The reason why so many incidents have been reported in the district is because every household has at least one family member working in the Gulf.
According to figures released by the district administration, more than 4,000 people have returned home in the last one month.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, during his daily press briefings, had been criticising the Karnataka government and pointed out that those who need to travel to Mangaluru for treatment, especially those seeking dialysis, have been adversely affected.
The Kerala government has undertaken all preventive measures in the district, ensuring all residents are strictly quarantined.
Kannur Medical College hospital, equipped with about 200 beds, 40 ICU beds and 15 ventilators, is being designated as a COVID-19 hospital.
"“Steps are being taken to enable testing at the Kasaragod Central University which would be converted to a COVID Primary Care Centre. The Kasaragod Medical College hospital will also be made into a COVID hospital. The state government will explore all available options for the treatment of affected patients including Cuban medicine after getting necessary approvals from the Drugs Controller.”" - Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala CM
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