By P.T. Bopanna

Is the B.S. Yediyurapp-led BJP government a ‘curse’ or a blessing for the people of Kodagu (Coorg) in Karnataka?

While the people of Kodagu welcomed the Yediyurappa government’s decision to stop the Tipu birth anniversary, the latest decision of the government to lift the ban on conversion of land and allow the formation of new housing layouts and resorts has not gone down well with the residents of the district.

The people of Kodagu who have witnessed two consecutive years of floods and landslides, fear that commercialisation of land use could trigger more landslides in the coming years.

On the plus side, one of the first decisions taken by the BJP government after Yediyurappa assumed office was to stop Tipu Jayanti, the birth anniversary of the 18th century Mysuru ruler.

The Tipu jayanthi had been opposed tooth and nail by the Kodavas (Coorgs) who were at the receiving end of the excesses committed by the Mysuru ruler. Naturally people of Kodagu were happy when the BJP government stopped the celebrations started by the Siddaramaiah-led Congress government to appease the Muslim voters.

However, what dismayed the people of Kodagu was the recent announcement by revenue minister R. Ashok to lift the ban on conversion of land to allow for commercial use.

The minister let the cat out of the bag when he said the decision was taken by the government following the demand made by the elected representatives.

It is no secret that most of the elected representatives in Kodagu are on the payroll of the timber mafia and other vested interests. Though the local MLAs are unpopular, they have been winning the elections solely because Kodagu people have been voting for brand Modi.

The government had imposed a blanket ban on land conversion in Kodagu following floods and landslides in August 2018. The ban was relaxed last May to allow conversion for building individual houses.

Though the minister claimed that land conversions will not be allowed along ‘buffer zones’, this is a tall order considering the rampant corruption in Kodagu district administration.

The BJP high command should immediately intervene and disallow any land conversion, except for individual houses. The high command should also look into allegations of land-grabbing and encroaching of reserve forests by its legislators and their relatives.

Another bad news for Kodagu is the appointment of the controversial Anand Singh as forest minister by Yediyurappa. People of Kodagu are worried over the loot of the forest in the ecologically sensitive Western Ghats and the appointment of Singh as forest minister has led to fears that the plunder of the forest will intensify and trigger more landslides.

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