By P.T. Bopanna
At a time when fake news is dominating the social media scene, it is worthwhile to recall one of the most successful social media campaigns in Karnataka a few years ago which transformed a major highway.
The 45-km Hunsur-Gonikoppal Road, bordering Mysore and Kodagu (Coorg) districts was in a pathetic state for decades due to neglect. Dotted with craters, several stretches of the highway had become hazardous for motorists.
In May 2012, I started a campaign through my news portal www.coorgtourisminfo.com to improve the condition of the road. I registered a petition with Petitions India, an online portal, where netizens could register their protest.
The petition was addressed to the then Speaker of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly, K.G. Bopaiah, who represented the Virajpet Assembly constituency in Kodagu.
Though Bopaiah assured in the media that the work on the road will be taken up, the assurance failed to materialize. With no relief in sight, I started the ‘Repair Hunsur-Gonikoppal Road’ campaign page on Facebook.
With the campaign getting a positive response on Facebook, senior IAS officer, P. Manivannan (in picture), who was then the chief project officer at Karnataka State Highways Improvement Project, took notice of the issue.
Manivannan convinced Dr H.C. Mahadevappa, the PWD minister, on the urgent need for starting the work. Though work on the road was taken up, work came to a standstill on account of the non-release of payment to the contractors.
In November, 2012, I met Karnataka governor Hans Raj Bhardwaj (in picture right) at Madikeri during a news conference and apprised him on the conditions of roads in Kodagu, particularly the Hunsur-Gonikoppal highway. The governor asked me to submit a memorandum and assured me that he would direct the government to take action.
Responding to a memorandum, the Governor directed the state government to take up the repair of the road. In a letter (photostat copy) to the Principal Secretary to the Public Works Department, the Governor’s Secretary stated: “I am directed to forward herewith the representation dated November 13, 2012, of Sri P.T. Bopanna, Bangalore, for taking the work early. Report on action taken on this matter may kindly be intimated to this Secretariat.”
The developments caught the attention of the mainstream media. A report in Deccan Herald in April, 2013, noted: “Initially, the local politicians, mainly Speaker K G Bopaiah and Kodagu in-charge minister Appachu Ranjan, tried to ignore the campaign. After Karnataka Governor Hans Raj Bhardwaj intervened in the matter following a memorandum submitted on behalf of the news portal www.coorgtourisminfo.com, the politicians were forced to take note of the growing support to the campaign from the online community.”
The Governor’s direction had the desired result and the work commenced. However, the work had to be deferred due to the monsoon. Subsequently, work could not be taken up due to non-availability of construction material. Work on the entire stretch was completed in February, 2015.
The ‘Repair Hunsur-Gonikoppal Road’ Page received 1,335 ‘likes’ on Facebook.I take this opportunity to thank the social media community, particularly IAS officer, Manivannan, for the support extended to the campaign.