By P.T. Bopanna
Karnataka government and Kodagu (Coorg) district administration are to be blamed for the death of a tourist Vigneshwari Eshwaran (24) at an unregistered homestay at Madikeri.
The failure to clamp down on illegal homestays, a cash cow for politicians and officials, claimed the life of Vigneshwari (in picture), a native of Toranagal in Ballari district, who was employed in Mumbai.
While it is mandatory for the homestay owner to stay in the premises, the owner of this shoddy homestay at Madikeri was living far away in Dubai. Reports said the victim died due to suspected gas leak from the geyser in a poorly ventilated bathroom while taking bath. Vigneshwari was staying at the homestay located near Dairy Farm along with few of her friends.
The concept of homestays in Coorg is essentially meant to offer the tourist an authentic experience of living with a Coorg family and tasting some of the local cuisine. However, racketeers from neighbouring states have made homestays a money-making racket. While the actual number of homestays registered with the tourism department is less than 1,000, there are said to be over 4,000 illegal homestays.
Meanwhile, the Homestay Association president BG Ananthashyana, said in a press release: “The homestay association has submitted several memorandums to the district administration and the tourism department to take action against illegal homestays. At least now, the administration has to wake up and curb the functioning of unregistered and illegal homestays.”
Rave parties, gambling, prostitution are common at homestays run without any permission. Illegal homestay owners are known to bribe politicians and officials to look the other way.
According to a survey conducted by HolidayIQ, Karnataka had the highest concentration of homestays in the country with Coorg being ‘India’s homestay capital’.
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.
The newly appointed Kodagu DC Dr B.C. Sateesha should give top priority to clamping down on illegal homestays.