KASARGOD: Shiva Sundar Raj, a sales manager of a packaged drinking water unit in Mangaluru, was livid Tuesday morning. Like every day, Raj, a resident of Kumbla in Kasaragod, reached the border at Thalappady to go to his office but was told that he could return home only after 28 days.
"How can I arrange a house in Mangaluru one fine morning. They should have given us at least seven days to find a place to stay," he said.
Raj was doubly worried because he had the keys to the office. "We are in the private sector and our jobs are hanging by a thread. Already, the company pays us only for 15 days. On top of this, officials are making new rules every day directly affecting our work," he said. During the two-month lockdown, he did not get his salary.
On Monday, in a meeting called by the minister for disaster management and revenue E Chandrasekharan, the people's representatives and officials unanimously decided to end the daily pass system after five daily commuters to Mangaluru tested positive for COVID-19.
According to the new rule, professionals coming into Kasaragod or going to Mangaluru could return from their workplaces only after 28 days.
Fairoz (40), a resident of Ullal on the outskirts of Mangaluru, was lucky. He works as a salesman in a granite shop in Manjeshwar. "I came for work because my shopowner gave space for me to stay in his house," he said.
Between June 3 and July 6, the Kasaragod district administration issued 1,799 passes to professionals and other office-goers from Mangaluru for daily visits. The Dakshina Kannada administration had issued around 1340 daily passes to residents of Kasaragod to work mostly in Mangaluru.
On Tuesday, around 500 persons on either side of the border returned home because of the new rule.
"Blocking the free movement between two states is against the constitution and the new lockdown rules issued by the Central government on June 29," said senior Congress leader and lawyer B Subbaya Rai.
He said restrictions can be imposed only outside the containment zones, which is an effective way to fight the virus.
The guidelines of the Central government is clear on inter-state travel. The order issued on June 29 said that "there shall be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods including those for cross land-border trader under treaties with neighbouring countries. No separate permission/ approval/ e-permit will be required for such movements".
Earlier the Karnataka government closed the borders, illegally, and now the Kerala government is following suit, affecting the livelihood and lives of common people, he said.
Rai said around half of the advocates in the Mangaluru Bar are from Kasaragod. "Similarly, many health professionals stay in Mangaluru but work in Kasaragod," he said.
A dentist -- who lives in Mangaluru and runs a clinic in Kasaragod -- said he used to go home every four days. "I have a small room attached to my clinic where I stay. I made that room to take cover during riots. I did not think I will be using it during a pandemic," he said.
The dentist said he drove to Kasaragod and maintained a sterile clinic. "I don't know how I can be a carrier of the virus. Also, I don't understand the logic of 28 days' stay," he said. "They should have at least exempted the medical professionals," he said.
'28-day stay makes monitoring easy'
However the district surveillance officer Dr A T Manoj said the 28 days stay period was recommended to reduce the frequency of travel and reduce the mobility of the virus. "Also during daily travel, health workers are not able to keep a tab of them. If they stay here for 28 days, we can monitor them," he said.
Likewise, when a Kasaragod resident returns from Mangaluru after 28 days, he can be subjected to a one-time test for COVID.
Daily travellers have contributed to eight COVID-19 cases in Kasaragod in seven days, said the surveillance officer. Another district official said there was no blockade of roads. "Only the smaller roads were blocked to stop unaccounted persons coming in and mingling with the people," he said.