Congress leaders in Karnataka have announced a three-day padayatra in Mangaluru to protest against the halting of the roadworks on National Highway 75, which connects the port city to the state capital Bengaluru.
The protest, which began on Monday, will see Congress leaders cover a 42 km stretch of the highway in the district by foot.
"We want to ask the government to save lives of people by re-starting the roadwork on National Highway 75. The highway to Bengaluru should be a four-lane highway," Congress leader and former Karnataka minister Ramanath Rai said at the start of the protest in Nelyadi.
He was accompanied by UT Khader, former legislators Vinay Kumar Sorake, JR Lobo, MLC Harish Kumar, Ivan D'Souza, Gopalswamy, Hassan District Congress President Manjunath Javagal and HK Mahesh.
Participated in Dakshina Kannada District Congress Committee organised padayatre from Nelyadi to B C Road demanding the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) to expedite the four laning work on Mangaluru Bengaluru national highway #NHAI #Mangaluru #Bengaluru @nitin_gadkari pic.twitter.com/Wq5mHWdvv0â€” UT KhadÃ©r (@utkhader) January 14, 2019
The protest has been named - â€˜Rastriya Heddari Poornagolisi, Janara Jeeva Ulisi' - which translates to 'Complete National Highway, Save Lives'.
Public meetings have been set up throughout the route of the padayatra on all three days. The padayatra will continue on Tuesday from Uppinangady and end at Mani Junction before re-starting on Wednesday and culminating at BC Road.
Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) President Dinesh Gundu Rao is expected to join the protest on its last leg on Wednesday. NH-75 covers Dakshina Kannada and Hassan and connects the 352 km distance between Mangaluru and Bengaluru.
The construction work to make the highway stretch from BC Road to Addahole, which runs through Dakshina Kannada district, was started under the UPA regime. The road work was originally contracted to Larsen and Tourbo. The company, however, decided to foreclose the contract and blamed the NHAI for it.
As soon as the padayatra was announced by the Congress, Dakshina Kannada MP Nalin Kumar Kateel requested Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari to expedite the construction of the four-lane road.
He, in turn, addressed the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) to hasten the process of construction. However, it appears that the roadworks on NH 75 will be a poll issue ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
The protest by the Congress comes days after party leaders protested against the merger of Vijaya Bank with Bank of Baroda.
The protest by the Congress also comes after activists of DYFI, CPI (M) and other left-leaning organisations marched in protest of the delay in completion of Thokottu flyover in Mangaluru.
The activists sported masks of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari and mockingly inaugurated the incomplete flyover. A week later, Congress and left-party leaders protested against the merger of Vijaya Bank with Bank of Baroda in the city.