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Karnataka-Kerala end border row, Yediyurappa govt to let non-Covid-19 patients enter state

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A Kerala boatman brings essential items to island residents in Alappuzha
A Kerala boatman brings essential items to island residents in Alappuzha | Representational image | ANI


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Bengaluru/New Delhi: The border dispute between Kerala and Karnataka over the passage of patients seeking treatment in the latter state drew to a close Tuesday, after the Supreme Court was informed that the matter had been resolved with the central government’s intervention. 

The dispute started late March as an elderly woman died after she was denied passage to Mangaluru, which along with nearby Manipal is home to many world-class medical facilities. Karnataka cited its responsibility towards local residents’ health amid the Covid-19 pandemic to justify the barricades, but Kerala said they were depriving critically ill patients – including those seeking regular chemotherapy and dialysis – of life-saving care.

The Supreme Court had Friday asked the states to resolve the issue amicably, following which the Union Home Secretary convened a meeting with the chief secretaries of Kerala and Karnataka.

On Tuesday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed a bench comprising Chief Justice of India S.A. Bobde and Justice L. Nageswara Rao that Karnataka had agreed to allow patients from Kerala who were not infected with Covid-19 to avail of medical services in Mangaluru. 

However, there is a set of conditions that the patients should satisfy if they seek to do so.

  • Only patients who require critical and intensive care, also termed medical emergencies, will be allowed into Karnataka via Talapady. 
  • The patients should be accompanied by just one attendant and the government ambulance that is transporting them should be sanitised according to Ministry of Health guidelines. 
  • The patient should also carry a certificate from a doctor that states they cannot be treated in any of the hospitals at Kasargod, Kannur or Kozhikode in Kerala, which are either close to or fall on the Karnataka border. 
  • The doctor issuing the certificate should also certify that the patient does not show any symptoms of Covid-19.
  • The patients must indicate what hospital they are getting into and this will be inspected by the Karnataka medical team at the border. 

Also Read: Is there a risk of Modi govt using Covid-19 to curb media and freedoms or is it necessary?


‘Opening just Talapady’

While Kerala is led by a Left Democratic Front under Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Karnataka is under BJP rule, with B.S. Yediyurappa as Chief Minister.

The Karnataka Chief Minister’s Office stated Tuesday that the decision to seal the borders was taken to ensure the safety of local residents. Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa said he decided to seal the borders on the advice of medical experts, saying Kasargod has a large number of Covid-19 patients. According to Kerala government figures from Monday evening, Kasargod has the bulk of the state’s Covid-19 patients.

“We will not open all the borders, but just Talapady based on the meeting of the chief secretaries of both states. We will adhere to the terms of agreement,” the office said. 

Kerala, meanwhile, welcomed the decision. “It has been our longstanding request that Karnataka open the borders on humanitarian grounds. There are several patients form Kasargod who have been undergoing treatment at Karnataka’s Mangaluru and Manipal for several years,” said an official from the Kerala Chief Minister’s Office. 

“The proximity of good hospitals to Kasargod was why we made this demand. We are happy with this decision.” 


Also Read: Delhi to Kerala — State response to Covid-19 makes it clear India needs a new health policy


The Supreme Court weighs in

Kerala and Karnataka have 17 arterial roads connecting them. Since the 21-day national lockdown was announced last month, Karnataka erected mud embankments on all roads, except for NH66, connecting Kasargod and Mangaluru via Talapady, which was kept open to allow essential services. 

The Kerala High Court Advocates’ Association then approached the Kerala High Court, seeking the opening of the road borders. 

Allowing this petition, the high court on 1 April directed the central government to remove the border blockades, holding that denial of access to health services was an infringement of right to life under Article 21. It also affected the right to freedom of movement under Article 19(1)(d) of the Constitution, the court said. 

Karnataka then moved the Supreme Court against the Kerala High Court order, saying the opening of borders would lead to a law and order situation as the local population was opposing the entry of people from Kasargod district, “which has a high number of Covid-19 cases”.

In response, the Kerala government told the Supreme Court that eight people had died because of the blockade, saying it had also hampered the movement of essential commodities through these roads. 

During the hearing Friday, the court urged the two states to amicably resolve their issues, and not confront each other in the midst of an unprecedented public health crisis. 


Also Read: How Bhilwara is dealing with its coronavirus problem — Full details of the district’s plan


 

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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doctor with a stethoscope
A doctor with a stethoscope (Representative image) | Pixabay


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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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