By P.T. Bopanna
While the Kodagu (Coorg) district administration headed by deputy commissioner Annies Joy (in picture) has succeeded in bringing the Covid-19 pandemic under control, it has failed badly in cracking down on illegal homestays.
The good news is that the recovery rate has touched 94 per cent while fresh Covid cases have declined. The administration should be commended for its effort, but it is too early to rest on its laurels because there is a long road ahead.
Though the DC has been threatening to take action against illegal homestays for over a year, there is very little moment on the ground. Curbing illegal homestays is critical because most of the criminal activities, including drugs and prostitution thrive in these homestays.
There are many shades of grey in the running of illegal homestays. Some are high-end homestays which are not registered with the government, but run their business through online bookings.
Consequently, there is loss of revenue to the government. The ill-conceived policies of the Modi government have left the government coffers empty and the only way to generate revenue is to clamp down on activities involving leakage of revenue.
Most of an estimated 3,000 illegal homestays do not conform to the norms for qualifying as homestays. They are run by fly-by-night operators from other states in rented/leased buildings.
It is learnt the government has so far approved 480 homestays. Another 397 homestays have registered, but yet to be verified by the tourism department.
Lack of manpower to curb illegal homestays should not be an excuse. What is lacking is the leadership to bring in all the stake-holders to tackle the menace. The district administration should write to the state government to spare the services of the commercial taxes department to proceed against high-end homestays which are raking in huge revenues, but fail to pay the government any tax.
The local homestays association should be able to identify the illegal homestays.
The main problem is the fact that illegal homestays generate illegal revenue which is shared by people’s representatives and officials of police, panchayat and revenue departments. These officials have a vested interest in keeping the illegal homestays running.
Kodagu is lucky to have committed and sincere officers at the helm. There should not be further delay in cracking the whip on illegal homestays.