By P.T. Bopanna

Is Kodagu (Coorg) district in Karnataka the ‘illegal’ homestays capital of India? Are these illegal homestays engaged in prostitution racket, gambling and rave parties?

The answer is in the affirmative because only 242 homestays are legal and the rest of the homestays estimated to number around 4,000 in Coorg are operating illegally.

According to a survey conducted by HolidayIQ, Karnataka had the highest concentration of homestays in the country with Coorg being ‘India’s homestay capital’.

Karnataka Tourism Minister Priyank Kharge (in picture) said 242 owners had registered their homestays in Coorg and another 357 were operating without registration.

The Karnataka government had introduced fresh guidelines for homestays last October and had fixed November 15 as the last date for registration. This was subsequently extended till December 1.

But a majority of homestays in Coorg are being operated illegally to avoid scrutiny. Some of the requirements for registration, include that the owners should stay in the premises and they should not offer more than five rooms for guests.

It is learnt that many homestays are operating resorts in the name of homestays to avoid payment of taxes. Many of these owners run a chain of such properties, in clear violation of the guidelines.

What is worrying is the fact that some of these homestays are known to indulge in illegal activities such as prostitution, gambling and rave parties.

An official was quoted as saying: “We have information that some homestays’ links to brothels in Bengaluru, Mysuru, Mangaluru and Mumbai.”

Former minister M.C. Nanaiah, who was chairman of the committee to suggest measures for safety of women and children, has been quoted as saying “At least 3,000 homestays operate in the Malnad region without certification from the state tourism department. They offer rooms at rates much lower than the licensed homestays. Most of these places do not have families staying in them and are run by people with dubious credentials. These illegal activities cannot happen without the tacit support of police and local authorities.”

The blame for not cracking down on the illegal homestays should be taken by the district administration led by the deputy commissioner Dr Richard Vincent D’souza.

It is time the district administration cracked the whip on the owners of illegal homestays. If their activities are not checked, Coorg will go the way of Goa.

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