Former Congress president and a Member of Parliament from Kerala’s Wayanad Lok Sabha constituency, Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday morning met Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan at Cochin House.
The meeting was scheduled to discuss issues of night traffic ban on National Highway (NH)-766 and implications of a proposed alternative route. He also discussed post-flood relief & rehabilitation efforts in the state with Vijayan.
The length of the NH-766 is 272 km, and 34.6 km of this passes through the Bandipur and Wayanad national parks. The road cuts through 19.7 km of the core zone of Bandipur and 4.5 km of its buffer zone. In Wayanad, the division is 4.8 km of the core zone and 5.8 km of the buffer zone. In all, 24.2 km of the highway passes through protected areas in Karnataka, and 10.4 km through protected areas in Kerala.
The night traffic ban was introduced following a directive from the Mysuru Deputy Commissioner in 2009 to provide wild animals with a reprieve from vehicular movement. The ban is from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. It was challenged in the High Court of Karnataka, but the decision was upheld. The matter is now being heard in the Supreme Court.
On Sunday, Gandhi had said that the nine-hour traffic ban on the national highway passing through the Bandipur reserve has caused hardship to lakhs of people in Kerala and Karnataka and asked the central and state governments to safeguard the interests of local communities while protecting the environment.
“I stand in solidarity with the youth on an indefinite hunger strike since September 25th protesting against the daily 9-hour traffic ban on NH-766 that has caused immense hardship to lakhs of people in Kerala and Karnataka,” the former Congress president had tweeted.
“I urge the central and state governments to safeguard the interests of local communities while upholding our collective responsibility to protect our environment,” he added in the tweet.
Last month, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan had batted in favour of an elevated highway through the Bandipur National Park connecting Wayanad in Kerala and Mysore in Karnataka. Gandhi was accompanied by senior Congress leader K.C Venugopal and I.C. Balakrishnan (M.L.A, Sulthan Bathery).