By P.T. Bopanna
Kodavas, a microscopic community hailing from Kodagu (Coorg) in Karnataka, were once known for their leadership qualities. So much so, Kodagu came to be known as the ‘Land of the Generals’.
However, in the last few decades, the community has not produced many outstanding men and women, except in the arena of sports.
There could be many reasons for the setback. Maybe the prosperity brought about by the cultivation of coffee has slackened their fighting qualities, once feared by Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysuru. Though Kodavas are one of the most highly educated communities in India, they have not been able to break the glass ceiling in their chosen areas because of the lack of killer instinct.
As a chronicler of Kodagu, I felt one of the reasons for their inability to play leadership role was the absence of many ‘role models’ in the community. There was a time when many from Kodagu used to crack the IAS, but in the recent years, one hardly comes across such achievements. Probably, because of the reservation policy of the government, it has become difficult for Kodavas to get representation in the all-India services.
With a view to reignite the famed leadership qualities in the community, I decided to showcase ‘role models’ by starting ‘Coorg Person of the Year.’
The concept took shape in 2005 when Dr Kavery Nambisan (in picture), a novelist and medical practitioner, was selected the Coorg Person. The selection was made based on the basis of a poll I conducted through my news portal www.coorgtourisminfo.com.
There has been no looking back since then. Every year, I conduct a poll to select the Coorg Person. The final choice is made by me after going through the feedback.
The ideal person who could be voted ‘The Coorg Person of the Year’ would be someone who has worked for the cause of Kodagu or won laurels and made the people of Kodagu proud. The person could be from any field.
I did not want to confine the competition to the Kodava community, as I feel people from all communities hailing from Kodagu should be involved in the exercise. For instance, one of the joint winners of the title last year was industrialist Ashok Kumar Shetty, who donated his land for building a road damaged by landslide in Kodagu. This despite the fact he himself had lost a big chunk of his land to landslide.
Source: My Coorg Chronicles by P.T. Bopanna (paperback) is available on Amazon
The following are the Coorg Persons selected in the past 15 years:
Justice A.S. Bopanna, judge, Supreme Court, Coorg Person of the Year 2019.
Squash champion Joshna Chinappa, Coorg Person of the Year 2014
Technology wizard Vineet Devaiah, Coorg Person of the Year 2012
Retired Tamil Nadu IAS officer P.M. Belliappa, Coorg Person of the Year 2011
Environmentalist Air Marshal K.C. Cariappa (retd), Coorg Person of the Year 2009