Madikeri: Rathi Vinay Jha, former Secretary, Union Ministry of Tourism, in an article in the Coffeeland News Weekly, published from Madikeri, Kodagu, in its 26th November 2021 issue, has regretted the inordinate delay in completing the Kodava Heritage Centre civil work and wondered why Kodavas did not resonate to this work like the Parsis did. Here is an extract of the article in this context:
“Around 2003, I envisioned the need to initiate a project to set up a Kodava Heritage Centre. It was a time when Kodagu was slowly opening up to tourism. I felt that setting up a Heritage Centre would be ideal to showcase stories about our people, our history, customs and traditions. It would also be a research and documentation centre where our diaspora and our children could reach out to for information on the homeland.
That is how the story began. In 2004, the Ministry of Tourism granted the Tourism Department of the Government of Karnataka, Rs. 5 crore to develop a number of sites in Kodagu like Raja Seat, Gaddige, Iruppu Falls, Abbi Falls, Nalknad Palace etc. And the project for a Heritage Centre on a budget of Rs. one crore was part of these plans for tourism development. In fact, a similar grant was made for the Parsis to set up a Heritage Centre in Udwada, Gujarat, where the early families had settled. They had put up a Centre without much ado in a few years. In Kodagu, however, even when building plans and the funds were in hands by 2004, the District Administration took a good six years to locate a suitable plot for the Centre.
It was important that the Centre be located where maximum footfalls could be ensured. Madikeri was therefore the best location. Work started at the site for the Centre near the Golf Course, Mercara Downs and was expected to be completed by 2012-13.
Thereafter, bureaucratic apathy and the negligence of contractors have resulted in the project being in a limbo even after ten years.
The last two lady Deputy Commissioners (DCs) in Kodagu did take a lot of interest in the project. I also understand that our elected representatives from Kodagu have evinced keen interest to see the project through. The President of the Kodava Samaja in Madikeri has also visited the site. So, with all this recent interest and promise I hope we can expect the Kodava Heritage Centre to be completed soon.
There is a lot to be done and institutions like the Kodava Samaja and other youth organisations based in Kodagu could take the lead. It is a project that will need to be steered on a public-private partnership mode with our elected representatives in the lead.
While there is hope there are also other challenges to be met. The construction that has dragged on for so long and been through four severe monsoon years needs to be certified for structural stability and fitted with appropriate spaces that a museum and library etc., would need. The planning of the interiors of the museum and other spaces will need considerable thought and expertise. All this would need more funds and commitment. It is only if the local stakeholders take an active interest will all this be achieved.
In a recent interview with the Star of Mysore, I had said that our Samajas and Kodava youth organisations based in Kodagu must make plans and meet the DC of Kodagu to take this idea forward. They need to be united in their mission and speak in one voice. I am sure, with all this push we will have a Kodava Heritage Centre up and running in the near future.”
Note: SOM appreciates Rathi Vinay Jha’s optimism but to say that the DC and the elected representatives from Kodagu ‘have evinced keen interest’ etc., is simply being polite. Otherwise there would not be a ‘black listing’ of a contractor and also a Court case in this regard. The question is: Will Kodavas in Kodagu learn from the Parsis in matters such as this one at least?—Ed