Haris runs a small shop in Hampankatta market in Mangaluru. He reopened his shop in June after the lockdown period ended but this week, he was livid after he found out that he could not commute from his home in Kasaragod district of Kerala to his shop in Mangaluru.
"After two months of lockdown, I just started my shop again. Now I cannot cross the border again. At least for people who work there, passes should be given. I know that the situation is worse but I'm still ready to take the risk just thinking about my family. The shop is the only income for our family and we have lived on the ration provided by the government (during the lockdown)," Haris says, speaking to TNM.
Haris's daily routine was halted on Monday after the Kerala government suspended daily e-passes for commuters working in Dakshina Kannada district of Karnataka due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
There are around 1,300 such commuters as per the data recorded by the Dakshina Kannada district administration, and this includes people managing shops, working in petrol pumps and even in healthcare as nurses. The Karnataka-Kerala state border check-post at Talapady is around 22 km away from Mangaluru.
The Kerala government has asked people working in Dakshina Kannada to stay at their workplace for 28 days, a condition that Haris feels is not feasible to meet on such short notice. The central government's unlock 2.0 guidelines said that states can no longer seal borders but despite this, many state governments like the Kerala government have restricted movement at the borders by monitoring the number of COVID-19 cases reported.
It is not just working professionals who are affected by this change. Many people in the border areas of Kasaragod district visit hospitals in Mangaluru to avail medical services for various ailments. Usha, a domestic worker from Kasaragod, had her hysterectomy scheduled in Mangaluru. "I was consulting with a Mangaluru hospital when they closed the borders in March. I had to bear the pain for all these months. I went (to the hospital) after the rules were relaxed. But now the border is closed again and I have no idea when this surgery can be done," she says.
Speaking to TNM, a doctor in Mangaluru also said that a significant number of paramedical staff in Mangaluru are from Kasaragod.
Earlier in March, the Karnataka government had closed its border with Kerala due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Kasaragod. A case was heard in the Supreme Court and a consensus was reached on April 7 to allow non-COVID-19 patients requiring urgent treatment to cross the border at Talapady and access hospitals in Mangaluru.
Kasaragod district officials had earlier told TNM that the move to stop people from travelling to Karnataka would not affect ambulance services. The District Collector of Kasaragod D Saith Babu had said that no roads between the two states have been blocked and that the movement of ambulances is allowed.
However, commuters travelling between the states need daily e-passes to cross the state border, and this provision has now been suspended until further notice.
Meanwhile, a prominent bank in Mangaluru's Ullal area is functioning with just two employees since many staff members in the branch are from Kasaragod.
COVID-19 cases have been steadily rising in Dakshina Kannada district in the past week. The district reported 83 new cases on Tuesday, taking the total number of cases to 1,351. The district is currently grappling with 677 active cases. Dakshina Kannada has also reported 22 deaths among COVID-19 patients.
(With inputs from Haritha John)