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.

By P.T. Bopanna

Is the zeal towards environmental issues reduced after Charulata Somal became the Kodagu (Coorg) DC?

After my recent report on how the authorities had bulldozed greenery at Raja Seat and put up huge concrete structures in the name of renovation of the tourist spot located at Madikeri, I received feedbacks to my report from the public.

A few of them noted that Somal did not have the same enthusiasm for environmental issues which she had while she was the CEO of Kodagu ZP a few years ago.

I feel this may not be the correct picture because on the ground there is no proof to say Somal has lost her interest in green matters.

A couple of months ago she heard the stakeholders at Hoskeri village where a World Environment School is coming up, amid protests from villagers  who fear that the project would lead to an environment disaster.  However, it is not known what stand she has taken in the establishment of the school in her report to the government.  

After my report on how mindless excavation had occurred by deploying excavators in the fragile area in the Raja Seat, there has been a disquiet among the public on the situation at the tourist spot, triggered by the unilateral actions of the previous DC Annies Joy.  

The DC should immediately visit the spot and order stoppage of work if there is further threat to the area from landslides.

Somal, a 2012-batch IAS officer from the Karnataka cadre, had served as CEO of Kodagu zilla panchayat way back in 2016. 

She was part of the 2016 International Antarctic Expedition led by Robert Swan for ‘A Leadership on the Edge Program to the Last Wilderness on Earth’

A committed environmentalist, Somal, started E-base in Kodagu after her return from Antarctica to promote environmental education.

By P.T. Bopanna


To promote mass tourism, Karnataka government has turned the scenic spot of Raja Seat in Kodagu (Coorg) into a concrete monster. This is nothing short of rape of the hills in one of the most picturesque spots in South India, located at Madikeri town, on the slopes of the Western Ghats.

This photo taken by Deccan Herald newspaper (in picture) shows how the pristine greenery has been turned into concrete by a thoughtless government in the name of ‘renovation’.

The Rs 4.5 crore project was started by the previous Kodagu DC Annies Joy, who earned the nickname ‘Excavator Annies’ for deploying excavators at Raja Seat, a sensitive spot where landslides had occurred in 2018.

The Raja Seat ‘beautification’ project involves construction of pathways, watch towers and decorative arches. The work is still in progress and would be completed in a few months.

The government should immediately stop further work at Raja Seat failing which the tourist spot itself would slide down in the coming years. There was a landslide near the neighbouring  Madikeri Akasha Vani premises this year.

Annies had come under fire for her infamous ‘Coorg Village’ project in the same area two years ago, for the construction of a shopping complex.

It is time the present Kodagu DC Charulata Somal who is known for her sensitivity to environmental issues, step in and prevent further damage to Raja Seat.

By Nimmi Chengapa*

Lockdown has been a cleansing process for the homestay business in Kodagu (Coorg) in Karnataka. Mass tourism has been brought under control naturally.

What the lockdown means to homestay owners? A true homestay, in its original essence, is a home where the owners who are also owners of the land, reside and spend their lives. When we have got this aspect right, it is understood that any alien danger, is a danger to the homestay owners.

So, when something like a pandemic strikes, it is but natural that we would welcome a lockdown for ourselves. We would not want anyone to enter our safe zone, our cocoon.

Yes, we are in an economic crisis just like all other businesses, but whenever the path gets clear, it will be the homestays that will be the safest for guests, as the protocol will be safety for all. Safety will be a mutual requirement.

During lockdown, as much as all businesses have had their setbacks, homestays too have had their fair share. We began to run homestays because we are small growers of coffee, and in order to sustain ourselves we need a supplementary income. However, like they say in Coorg, “mande undenge, naale mandethuni idolu!”. Translated, this means if you have a head, tomorrow you can wear the headgear/turban. Likewise, if we need to earn, we need to be alive.

So the lockdown and all that it comes with, is a saving grace. Besides, if we are to look at the larger picture, which is the environment we live in, Coorg, lockdown has been a cleansing process. Mass tourism has been brought under control naturally.

If registered, or should I say authentic homestays, can be encouraged by the Tourism Department, tourist flow can easily be regulated, as we are allowed only a limited number of people as our capacity is capped.

As each homestay has a limited capacity, social distancing will also be possible. In fact, as we are located far and wide, social distancing happens naturally. This way, it can remain a green zone.

It goes without saying, that if the premises are rented, for return on investment, the numbers have to be big. The space for social distancing would then be limited. However, safety comes first, not only for us but for our environment that we live in. We are committed to the safety, comfort and well-being of our guests and that is our motto and aim.

*Nimmi Chengapa (in picture) is the owner of a homestay in Coorg

By P.T. Bopanna

The Kodagu (Coorg) district administration in Karnataka has taken the right step in closing down tourist spots in the wake of a surge in Covid-19 cases. However, the government has allowed hotels, resorts and homestays to function by adopting standard operating procedures.

The decision to close down the tourist spots has not gone down well with the tourism sector.

President of the Kodagu Hotel and Resort Association Nagendra Prasaid has been quoted as saying: “The situation would have been understandable if it was a nationwide lockdown and a nationwide ban on tourism. However, only Kodagu is made to face the brunt.”

The president of the association should know that Kodagu is perhaps the only place in India where tourism thrives through illegitimate means. There are an estimated 5,000 homestays in the district with over 25,000 rooms. Out of this nearly 60 per cent are being operated without valid licences. Most of the illegal homestays are run by fly-by-night operators from Kerala.

Unlike Mysuru where it has been made mandatory for tourists to have Covid-19 negative certificate to enter tourist spots, Kodagu is not in a position to entertain tourists in large numbers. Unlike Mysuru, Kodagu lacks infrastructure, including hospital beds for corona patients in the event of a surge in the number of cases. Besides, Kodagu lacks personnel to ensure that the tourists follow safety norms.

It is understandable that the tourism sector has been hit badly by the pandemic especially in Kodagu where a large number of people are dependent on tourist revenue to make a living, following a crash in the price of coffee and pepper.

The various hospitality associations and trade bodies owe an explanation to the public as to why they have not protested against illegal homestays who make a killing by fleecing tourists by not paying taxes to the government. This is the time for introspection by the stake-holders to clean up the mess in the tourism sector in Kodagu.

By P.T. Bopanna

Instead of providing basic facilities at tourist spots, the Karnataka government wants to build a heliport in Kodagu (Coorg) district in Karnataka, which would apparently yield commissions and ‘kickbacks’ to ministers and officials.

Karnataka tourism minister C.P. Yogeeshwar has announced that a heliport will be set up in Kodagu under the UDAN scheme of the Union government.

Bhagamandala, a pilgrimage spot which attracts a large number of tourists, does not have adequate infrastructure like a bus-stand, toilets or proper drainage.

Instead of ramping up basic facilities at tourist spots, politicians are only interested in mega projects which would yield kickbacks.

A previous deputy commissioner built a shopping complex at Raja Seat in Madikeri, instead of developing the greenery at the scenic spot. Similarly grotesque structures were built at Talacauvery, the birthplace of river Cauvery. The use of excavators and heavy equipment led to a landslide, killing the priests of the Talacauvery temple last year.

At a time when the district is not able to cope up with the tourist traffic in the week-ends, building a heliport will worsen the situation. Moreover, the completion of the Bengaluru-Mysuru four-laning will bring in more tourists to Kodagu.

With three back to back landslides hitting the district in the last three years, the priority should be to repair the roads and bridges affected by the landslides.

In the circumstances, the government should not go ahead with the heliport project which involves building an airport designed for the use of helicopters.

The announcement by the tourism minister to build restrooms on Hunsur-Sampaje Road, is best left to the private sector as the government agencies are not competent to run such facilities.

The Hotels, Resorts and Restaurants Association president Nagendra Prasad has brought it to the notice of the minister that there is shortage of staff in the tourism department in Kodagu. The government should address this problem, instead of getting involved in high-end projects which would only benefit the real estate mafia.

The Association also brought to the notice of the minister the problem being created by illegal homestays. The government should weed out the illegal homestays which is bringing bad name to tourism in Kodagu.

The Karnataka tourism department has approved 207 homestays in Coorg.

Altogether, 4600 applications have been submitted online for registration of homestays, of which only 207 homestays have been approved. The rest of the applications are being scrutinized.

As per government norms, only those families which possess houses of their own should foray into the homestay business. It is learnt that many of the applicants fail to satisfy this rule.

The Kodagu district administration has called upon the tourists to check into only such homestays approved by the government.

Check out the following link to find out the government approved homestays:

By P.T. Bopanna

The Kodagu (Coorg) district administration in Karnataka is indulging in flip-flops on the issue of keeping tourists out of bounds in areas prone to landslides this monsoon, thereby compromising the safety of tourists visiting the hill station.  

In the wake of extensive landslides which devastated large parts of Kodagu last August, experts from Geological Survey of India (GSI) had identified 13 villages as vulnerable to natural calamities.

A few days ago, the Kodagu deputy commissioner Annies Kanmani Joy (in picture) was quoted as saying that the district administration has authorised local authorities to take appropriate precautionary measures, keeping in mind the vulnerability factor.

Following the arm-twisting by the powerful resorts lobby in Kodagu, the Makkandur gram panchayat development officer who had issued directions to homestays and resorts in his jurisdiction against accepting bookings till August 31, has withdrawn the directive.

It may be recalled that Makkandur was one of the worst affected areas in last year’s natural calamity and suffered extensive damage due to landslides.

Reports said the Makkandur panchayat official wrote to the president, Homestays’ Association, Kodagu, informing he had withdrawn the directive against accepting bookings. Further, he asked the Association members to take all necessary precautions if the intensity of rains goes up in the coming days.

According to reports, the members of the tourism industry met the Kodagu DC on Monday and complained that many tourists cancelled their bookings fearing for their safety.

EDITORIAL: The Kodagu DC should get her priorities right. The first and foremost is the safety of the tourists and the local residents. The Makkandur panchayat official had taken the decision to issue notice for closure till August 31, based on the GSI report which had identified 13 villages in Kodagu as vulnerable to natural calamities.

The Kodagu DC should not yield to various lobbies with hidden agendas. Most of the resorts in Kodagu are backed by politicians.

The first and foremost is to ban tourist activities in areas identified by the GSI as vulnerable to landslides. If the DC fails to act decisively, she has to take the responsibility in the event of any tragedy.





By P.T. Bopanna

In Coorg, the homestay capital of India, homestays located in landslide-prone areas will be out of bounds for tourists till August 31.

In the wake of extensive landslides which devastated large parts of Kodagu (Coorg) last August, experts from Geological Survey of India (GSI) have identified 13 villages as vulnerable to natural calamities. Accordingly, the Kodagu district administration in Karnataka has authorised local authorities to take appropriate precautionary measures, keeping in mind the vulnerability factor.

Reports said that over 21 homestays and one resort have been served with notices by Makkandur Panchayat against operating their guest facilities till August 31, 2019, as the area is prone to landslides. Further, homestays and resort owners have been warned that they will be solely responsible for tourist safety in case of a natural calamity.

A local official was quoted as saying that the closure notices were issued as a precaution to ensure tourists are not put to risk by landslides and roadblocks.

The vulnerable areas identified by the GSI include the villages of Niduvattu, Baribelacchu, Hebbattageri, Devasthooru, Thantipala, Badikeri, Mukkodlu, Meghathalu, Makkandooru, Udayagiri, Katakeri, Made (Jodupala) and 2nd Monnangeri.

The homestay industry has not taken the closure notice kindly because the homestays had suffered huge business losses as tourists stayed away from Kodagu following the unprecedented rains last year.

The homestay owners in the vulnerable areas have urged the authorities to reconsider their order to close the facilities, keeping in mind the fact that large sums had been spent on repairing the damaged facilities. The government had banned tourism in Coorg from August 16 to September 9 last year following a spate of landslides which struck the hill station in August on account of unprecedented rains. Parts of the state highways had been washed away due to landslides.


By P.T. Bopanna

To prevent harassment to tourists, the Election Commission of India should immediately intervene and scrap an arbitrary order reportedly issued by K.A. Dayananda (in picture), the deputy commissioner of Shivamogga in Karnataka, directing hotels and homestays against entertaining bookings from tourists belonging to constituencies going to the polls on April 18 and 23.

Either Dayananda is overzealous or he is ignorant of the law in ordering all tour operators and resort/hotel owners to verify the address proof and voter ID cards of the guests before giving accommodation. He has been quoted as saying: “All voters must exercise their franchise to strengthen democracy.”

This IAS official should know that there is no law to force voters to exercise their franchise. Instead of coming out with such hare-brained ideas, Dayananda should take up voter awareness programme.

It is true that in view of the long week-end around the polling dates on April 18, residents of cities like Bengaluru are expected to flock to cooler getaways to escape the heat.

Viju Changappa, the president of Kodagu Homestays Association, has said: “Our members are aware of the election dates across the country, who will ask tourists about their participation in elections if they book on their respective voting days.”

One is not sure whether all the talk of denying accommodation to people who do not vote is all media hype. Ideally, hotel owners can offer discounts to guests who show proof of voting with ink on their finger.