Supreme Court of India today refused to stay an order by Kerala High Court directing Karnataka to open all its roads to Kerala for essential traffic.
Karnataka had, a week ago, closed all the major roads from Kasargode district in Kerala — a major Coronavirus hotspot with around 150 COVID-19 cases.
Karnataka government dumped truckloads of soil on these roads after people in the adjoining areas of Coorg and Mangalore expressed worries about the influx of ‘infected patients’ into their areas.
While Kerala government has not object to the blockage of human traffic on these roads, it has pointed out that dumping soil on the roads has blocked the supply of essential goods, including rice and vegetables, to the state.
Karnataka, however, refused to clear the roads, maintaining that no traffic will be allowed. It asked goods carriers to reroute via alternate routes like Mysore-Wayanad.
Karnataka has also ordered medical colleges in the Mangalore area not to admit patients from Kasargode, pointing to the high levels of COVID-19 infection in the district.
The northern parts of Kasargode district used to be part of the South Canara district with its headquarters at Mangalore, and people in this area regularly travel to Mangalore city for shopping and emergency health requirements as it is only 50 km away.
The blockage has reportedly claimed the lives of 6 patients who could not get medical care in time.
In its arguments, Karnataka argued that allowing patients of any type to come into its hospitals from Kasargode would result in the spread of COVID-19 infection in Mangalore.
Kerala has imposed prohibitory orders in Kasargode district, with policemen beating up anyone moving about on roads except for emergencies.
The Supreme Court today asked the chief secretaries of both states to sit together, along with the union health secretary, to thrash out a way to ensure that the roads can be opened to essential traffic.
On Thursday, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan seemed willing to compromise on human traffic, and said Kerala is primarily concerned about the movement of essential goods, particularly food items.
Due to high wages, most agricultural land in Kerala remains uncultivated, and both rice and vegetables are imported in large quantity from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.