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COVID-19: Inter-State Movement (Kerala-Karnataka Case study) 

  • IASbaba
  • April 7, 2020
  • 0
UPSC Articles
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POLITY/ FEDERALISM

Topic: General Studies 2

  • Functions and responsibilities of the Union and the States, issues and challenges pertaining to the federal structure

COVID-19: Inter-State Movement (Kerala-Karnataka Case study) 

The lockdown imposed by authorities in the wake of COVID-19 pandemic has restricted inter-state movement which has opened up the questions on Federalism in India.  

This has been exemplified in the Kerala-Karnataka border issue 

Brief Background of the issue 

  • NH-66 connects the Kasargod district of Kerala with Mangalore of Karnataka  
  • Many in Kasargod district of Kerala depend on medical facilities in Mangalore for emergencies, while others rely on inter-State movement for essential medicines to reach them 
  • Karnataka had closed the NH on 21st Marchwhich was opposed by Kerala 
  • Karnataka’s action was based on the fact that Kasaragod has Kerala’s largest number of positive cases of COVID-19 

What has been Judiciary’s stand on this? 

  • The Kerala High court observed that the Mangaluru-Kasaragod stretch was part of the National Highway network and has directed the Centre to ensure free vehicle movement on this stretch. 
  • Karnataka contended that it was not bound to act on an order issued by the Kerala High Court.  
  • Centre is yet to act on this order 

Concerns raised in this issue 

  • Article 21Denying emergency medical aid amounts to a violation of the right to life and liberty 

Similar actions by Kerala government 

  • Kerala Governor promulgated the ‘Kerala Epidemic Diseases Ordinance, 2020’ to arm itself with extraordinary powers to deal with the pandemic. 
  • One of its clauses says the State can seal its borders for such period as necessary – similar to what Karnataka government has done 
  • Another provision empowers Kerala government to restrict the duration of essential or emergency services, including health, food supply and fuel 

Human Rights Vs State’s Public Health Security  

  • Whether legal measures taken by the State to prevent the further spread of an epidemic can extend to a point where there is no exception even for medical needs 

Division of Power: 

  • Inter-State migration and quarantine are under the Union List 
  • While the prevention of infectious diseases moving from one State to another is under the Concurrent List 
  • This means that States have the power to impose border restriction 
  • However, the responsibility to prevent a breakdown of inter-State relations over such disputes is on the Centre. 

Way Ahead 

  • The concern of Karnataka is legitimate given that there is a danger of spread of infection from a district which is an hotspot of the COVID-19 
  • Nevertheless, its actions should not cause constraints on movement of essential medicinal supplies 
  • Centre has to broker an agreement between both states at least for the movement of essential items needed for health & survival. 

Connecting the dots 

  • Interstate Council and Zonal Councils 
  • NH-766 between Kerala & Karnataka and its issues 

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