Monday, June 26, 2006
State of indifference
When you are going towards Ooty by road, you reach a small village called Gundlupet. On the main road there is a small circular traffic island from where you have roads going in four directions. Take the left turn and you will come across a small thatched café. Just an ordinary dilapidated wayside teashop except for its menu.
And other miscellaneous small animals from the Bandipur Forest.
The ‘restaurant’ does thriving business and its patrons are local politicians and other big wigs. Long time back on our way to Ooty my Dad developed a headache and needed some coffee. That’s how we landed up at this ‘Café’. The owner is a very friendly and nice man. He became very friendly with my Dad and even offered to parcel some of the ‘forbidden’ delicacies, which my father declined politely. My heart sank when I realized that this was a well established ‘business’ several years old. The suppliers are the tribes that inhabit the forests, the very same tribe that fought off the Taj Hotel venture that was to come up in the area.
Last year in Ooty we met up with the Conservator of Forests for Nilgiri’s and he told us proudly, that they now had 35 tigers in the Tamil Nadu (TN) side of the forests. When we informed him about the café, he said that there was nothing they could do as the café was in Karnataka. The animals were safe in TN but once they crossed to Karnataka they were easy pickings.
The very next month the UN lauded TN for its excellent work in conservation. The moment you enter into TN you can feel the difference. The Mudumalai Sanctuary (the TN name for the same forests) is well kept with check points. You are asked not to carry plastics into the Nilgiri’s. This year I saw less plastics flapping in the wind on the Nilgiri hillsides.
We were also fortunate to be taken on a guided tour of a man made Shola forest. A Shola forest is a ‘Rain Forest”. This means the trees in these forests absorb rain water and release it into the ground via its roots. So there is no wastage, no flow of water carrying top soil and ground water also gets recharged. These trees grow very slow, it takes almost 40 years for one tree to reach a height on 6 feet.
What amazed us was a revelation. The Shola forests in the Nilgiri feed the underground aquifers from which springs the Cauvery many miles away in Coorg. The Shola forests of the Nilgiri’s feed the Cauvery !!
When we went to Coorg last year, what struck us most was the cleanliness of the place. No plastics littering the roads or crowding tourists. The reason…not many hotels in the area. We stayed with our Coorgi friends in their Estate and thus were able to feel the animosity against Karnataka that simmers in the area. The reason? Coorg was an independent State till 1958 (not sure of the date) before it was merged into Karnataka. The discontent is due to the rampant felling of trees by contractors who have ‘friends’ in the corridors of Vidhana Soudha. The Coorgis are a tree loving people and believe in planting 10 trees for every tree that is felled. They also feel out of control of their own motherland. There is not a single college or decent school in the entire area. Coorg contributes a sizable chunk of revenue to the State through it’s coffee produce.
When Karnataka polled 4th in the corruption list, the joke going around was that we had bribed our way to the 4th position while we were actually in the first position.
As you enter Karnataka from Mudumalai there is this board welcoming you to Karnataka. As a kid I asked my Dad, how people could distinguish between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. He said, “You see the policeman at the border checkpost who is putting the entry fees into his pocket? That’s the beginning of Karnataka."