KERALA CHIEF Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Tuesday met Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari and Environment and Forest Minister Prakash Javadekar seeking the Central government’s intervention for relaxing the night traffic ban on the Kozhikode-Kollegal national highway passing through the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka.
Vijayan said Javadekar has assured him that a committee would be set up to study the night traffic ban. He said the minister also informed him that there were limitations for the Centre to intervene in the matter as the Supreme Court had upheld the ban.
Former Congress president and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi earlier in the day met Vijayan and discussed the issue in the wake of protests in his constituency by various organisations and an indefinite hunger strike by youth leaders from various parties demanding round the clock connectivity through the forest stretch of NH-766.
Gandhi also discussed with Vijayan issues related to devastation caused due to recent landslides in Wayanad. He sought timely payment of the compensation package to those affected, repair and upgradation of roads and other public infrastructure and discussed the need for taking long-term flood mitigation measures.
As for the night traffic ban, Gandhi in a letter to Vijayan said the “indefinite hunger strike by youth across political lines against the ban on NH 766 does point out to us the terrible human cost of this measure”. He asked the state government to urge the Ministry of Environment and Forests to consider construction of elevated sections on the highway. He pointed out that the National Highway Authority of India has built several underpasses on NH 44 which passes through Pench and Kanha tiger reserve.
“Tigers use these underpasses regularly even during daytime. Similar mitigation measures could be considered on NH-766 to remove barriers to free movement for wild life,” Gandhi said in his letter to Vijayan.