This year will probably go down in History as a landmark year for Coorg and its people. The people of the district are starting to discuss issues that we have been trying to brush under the carpet for the longest time. From arm chair activism, we are moving to a situation where we are starting to walk the talk.
I have personally been a part of 2 protests in the last 3 months, the first held at Madikeri in the first week of June and the second held at Kutta on the 26th of August 2017. The Kutta protests is especially significant as it helped bring the conversation on development vs environment out in the open.
The time has come for us to start a dialogue in understanding the development that Coorg as a district needs. Of course, all of us who are advocating against unplanned developmental activities have a responsibility of looking at the whole situation holistically and ensuring that legitimate land owners do not feel threatened. It is imperative that the fight against unplanned development activities also calls on the Government and the powers to be to protect interests of planters and original land owners of Coorg who have been cultivating land for the past few generations. There needs to be a sustained dialogue at the village level, where both sides talk to each other and understand the actual situation especially considering the fact that vested interests have fed people misinformation as information resulting in a hatred against people advocating for the regulation and stopping of unplanned development activities. I am not going into the merits of the ESZ or what the rules actually mean for that needs to be done at the ground level and not in an article. I am no legal or environmental expert to give my two bits.
However, that being said, I believe it is time for us to start putting things in perspective when it comes to the argument on development vs environment. It is important that we understand and take responsibility for the legacy that we are going to leave behind for our future generations. The Kutta protests saw some really strong views emerging with those supporting the protests being made to look like people who are anti- development and working against the interests of the future generations. The fight against unplanned development activities is not to deprive people of the land of a livelihood nor is it about benefiting people outside the district to have a good life at the costs of the inhabitants of the land as is made out to be. We need to understand that the greatest strength of this land of ours is in its natural heritage.
Development for a fragile landscape like Coorg needs to be defined by understanding the basic needs of the people of the land. In today's day and age, connectivity is important and nobody can say no to development. But this development needs to be defined by the people of the land for our own benefit. Of course, we need better roads connecting the nook and corner of the district. But surely, we do not need a 4 lane highway to achieve that. Nor do we need a train that will do more harm than good. Will these development solve the man animal conflict that seems to be increasing every day. Elephants today for example are going into places that we did not even imagine that they would venture into. And is it because we have somehow increased our green cover or is it because stupid policies have eroded our Forests of its natural greenery?
I only wish that the people who are calling for so called development talk about the things that actually matter. Like better internet facility where our Children and adults in very village in the district have access to information; better medical facilities in the Villages where every PHC has basic medicine and good doctors. None off these people have called out the Hospitals for not storing anti- venom considering the habitat that we live in. I find this hypocrisy appalling. If the development that these people are considering is to ape our unplanned cities like Bangalore, then we might as well live in Bangalore.
If we need development, then we need to talk about bettering our agricultural practices and access to modern machinery and markets. In the last couple of years we have slowly seen smaller boutique brands like Flying Squirrel, River side, Black Baza, Papakuchi and others emerging from Coorg. I would like to imagine a situation 10 years from now where we have many more such brands emerging from Coorg marketing home grown products. Do we not have the potential to have pepper or honey brands from Coorg? I only wish the vision grows to better our land without losing its greenery. Tourism that is more class than mass, where regulations ensure that the tourist operators make profits and the tourists come back to see the beauty of the place for what it is instead of what it used to be.
I find it amusing that the very people that are expected to uphold the interests of the Community seem to be indulging in a slander campaign with the sole intention of discrediting a certain group of people to satisfy their egos. If these organisations really cared, then they will stop being glorified event managers managing real estate space and actually start working for the betterment of the land and the community. How many trees have these organisations planted? Do these real estate spaces have a plan to mitigate garbage menace and ensure a clean green venue status? If they are for holistic development, then these organisations and real estate spaces should ban plastic in their premises for a start and start composting their waste. Isn't that modern development? If these organisations want to work for the greater good of the community, how many classes have they conducted in the leading Schools of Coorg in educating our Children on our culture and land. We only talk about how we are losing our culture and don't seem to be doing anything about it.
A lot of our so called leaders in Coorg have let their egos get the better of them. They have gotten so used to being put on a pedestal that they have somehow come to an impression that they know better than everybody else. And if they get irritated with somebody or some organisation, then all they have to do is run a slander campaign to discredit the other person. I believe that they would only do it if the other person has somehow managed to push a few buttons. I wish we get leaders who understand the pulse of their electorate and work for the the greater good of the electorate. Leaders who join and support the cause instead of being invited to join a cause. Leaders who understand the need to protect the land and its people.
The fight to save the Greenery of Coorg is not to convert the whole of Coorg into a forest. The fight is to protect what the land has been offering us without asking any questions of us. Have we ever considered as to how lucky we are to have got this on a platter? We of course love to go into nostalgia and talk about the good days of the past where nature provided us in abundance. From Baimbale to the Kummus to the koille meenu to madhu thoppu (maddu puttu), we took it for granted that we are always going to get it. What are we going to show our Children tomorrow? I cannot for the life of me imagine going to a supermarket to buy these things or showing our Children tomorrow all of this in pictures.
The responsibility is ours to protect and preserve what little we have left. As Kaveriamma's children, it is our basic duty to protect our devarakadus, streams and rivers that our ancestors left behind for us. And to make sure that the Children of tomorrow get to see and enjoy all of this and more.
Now I have a weapon to clean and some belting to be done. Happy Kailpod! And may our ancestors put some sense into all our heads.
This land, this water, this air, this planet - this is our legacy to our young- Paul Tsongas