People in north Malabar, especially those in Kasargod depend on Mangaluru for their medical treatment needs. Owing to the paucity of quality government hospitals, and the relative low treatment costs compared to hi-tech hospitals, Mangaluru's hospitals are a source of relief and succour to Keralites. However, the district authorities of Karnataka border have hastily taken a decision to shut the border with Kerala under the pretext of 'protecting' Mangaluru from the Covid threat that has spread in Kasargod region.
In an overnight operation, the Karnataka authorities closed the border roads putting up a wall of soil. In spite of the arrival of seriously ill patients in ambulances at the borders, not a spur of compassion moved the officials. Such an unkind act of far-reaching consequences would not have been taken by the district administrators without the blessing of the state government and of chief minister BS Yedyurappa. And following their inhumanly unbending stance, six lives were lost in a matter of three days. The fact that Kerala had only two deaths even due to Covid since its beginnign, would speak for the enormity of the Karnataka's apallingly parochial stance.
The high court of Kerala accepted a public interest petition highlighting the crisis resulting from the closing of Kasargod border, and served notice on Karnataka, taking due cognizance of the urgent gravity of the situation. What prominently reverberated in the court's observation was full sympathy towards those who were begging for the opening of the border in search of urgent medical attention. But the stance taken by Karnataka's Advocate General PK Navadli in the High Court reflected the stubbornness that they would not give access even for patients. Even at the discussions held beteween the two respective chief secretaries, Karnataka showed no signs of budging. Eventually, Kerala HC had to order that Kasargod-Mangaluru border should be opened as soon as possible and that patients should be given humane treatment. The bench also asked the Centre to intervene inorder to enforce the court order. Although the Karnataka side had initially taken a stand that it would open the border conditionally, now instead of complying with the court order and with an aim of closing the border comletely, its government has approached the Supreme Court for a legal battle with an appeal against the Kerala high court's order.
In fact, what has now turned into a legal tussle between two states is an issue which could have been easily resolved by the Centre. For this very reason, the Centre that remained an indifferent witness is as much to blame as the Karnataka government for complicating the issue. Karnataka chief minister is known to be a darling of union home minister Amit Shah. The stalemate in Kasargod is one that could have been broken with a simple advice to Karnataka to honour the spirit of federalism and not to play a dirty politics of regional parochialism when the people are in the vortex of a fear of disease. What the Centre tried during the High Court hearing was to plead with the court not to break precedents by intervening in an inter-state dispute, thereby trying to prolong the case. The BJP unit in Kasargod is reportedly peeved by the position taken by the BJP governments of both the Centre and Karnataka. But going by the unyielding stance of both, it easily transpires that the Kerala unit of BJP lacks any clout that can pressure either. Meanwhile, the seriously ill patients in Kasargod district are pinning hopes on a favourable verdict in the petition filed by Kasargod MP Rajmohan Unnithan in the Supreme Court.
The reason why the BJP government of Karnataka adopts such a closed and insensitive stance approach is mysterious. The circumstances in which the country went into a lockdown and into a closure of borders are all too clear to everyone. One can understand if a mob out of fear of Covid - that turns into a phobia - blocks movement of food items or goods traffic or even ambulances with patients. But what can be more dangerous than the government authorities, who are bound to wisely lead people to survive a disaster situation, themselves reaching a level of frenzy worse than violent mob! If the shackle binding the lunatic itself turns mad, which way is the country headed!