Thiruvananthapuram: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Friday morning visited Wayanad to show solidarity with the protesters opposing night traffic ban on a national highway passing through Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Kerala.
Wayanad has been witnessing protests over the decade-long dispute on over whether to allow night travel through the Bandipur tiger reserve. The state government wants to remove a travel ban on National Highway 766, which cuts through the forest area, between 9pm and 6am.
The Wayanad MP on Friday morning met youth leaders who have been on hunger strike to oppose the move.
I am in Wayanad, Kerala to stand in solidarity with the youth who have been on hunger strike, protesting against the travel ban on National Highway 766. Earlier I visited those who have had to be hospitalised, as a result of the prolonged fast. pic.twitter.com/eVqbHWMZJG— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) October 4, 2019
Gandhi had put out a tweet extending support to the hunger strike last week as well. “I stand in solidarity with the youth on an indefinite hunger strike since September 25th protesting against the daily nine-hour traffic ban on NH-766 that has caused immense hardship to lakhs of people in Kerala and Karnataka,” he said.
Following an order of the Karnataka High Court, the stretch has remained closed for night traffic for the past 10 years to avoid wild animal casualties. The Supreme Court recently had sought a report on the possibilities of a complete closure of the route after upgrading the alternative Kutta Gonikuppa road.
This has angered the people of Wayanad, especially those from Bathery town, as any such move would increase the travel time manifold. Locals say farmers would be the worst hit as they would not be able to transport their produce within the stipulated time.
Locals are demanding the construction of an elevated highway that would ensure the protection of wild animals while also not hampering their travel time. Currently, the distance between Bathery and Mysuru is 98 km. The proposed alternative route would increase the distance to 217 km.
Protesters say while hundreds of students also use this route on a daily basis, the tourism industry would be badly affected by the proposed ban. With the protests intensifying, locals and representatives of the youth wings of all political parties, including the Youth Congress, Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI), Youth League and Yuva Morcha, went on a hunger strike last week.
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