BENGALURU: Wildlife activists have called on the state government to regulate homestays more efficiently in Chikkamagaluru district in keeping with the Karnataka Homestay Rules and Regulations 2014-19. Claiming that there were 169 illegal homestays in the district, they said it had adversely affected locals and wildlife. Moreover, Tourism Minister Priyank Kharge admitted that many homestays were operating without licences. Kharge said that anywhere between 700 and 800 homestays had enrolled in Chikkamagaluru and Kodagu districts in the past year and assured that the government will crack down on illegal operators.
Homestays are facilities that resemble guest houses and are meant for tourists. Upon surveying 182 homestays, activists claimed that 1,820 people could be accommodated legally. However, more than 5,000 people had been staying at these establishments, they said. They said that even if 10 people were allowed to live in a homestay with five rooms and 10 beds, as many as 27 people were found to be staying in one such building, they alleged. D V Girish of Bhadra Wildlife Conservation Trust said, “District authorities should inspect the establishments that have registered and grant licence only after proper verification. One homestay in Thogrihankall village near Chikkamagaluru town has 44 rooms, a dormitory and tents.” Wildlife activist G Veeresh said, “We found some homestays housing more than 80 people. Two homestays had accomodated 100 people each. As many as 41 homestays have massive accommodation like buildings, cottages and rooms. Many homestays were involved in illegal acts such as non-forestry activities, hunting, wildlife meat trading, fishing and trekking on prohibited routes.”
Registration deadline extended again
Minister Priyank Kharge defended the Tourism department. He said, “The deadline for registration and rating has been extended many times in the past year and we will give them one or two months more, following which there shall be a crackdown. “We have asked the Deputy Commissioner and Superintendent of Police to verify and check every homestay when they register.” Kharge added, “I have met the Homestay Association in Chikkamagaluru and Kodagu districts and held meetings with them. I have asked them to register and get their Tourism-Homestay rating done by empanelled agencies. “We have multiple agencies to carry out the ratings. I have been seeking the support of the association but there has been a lukewarm response. If they register with our portal, they fear a crackdown as many are violating the norms.” Moreover, the forest department has been asked to act against green violations, the minister added. As per rules, there are only 11 legal eco trails for trekking. “If homestays have been unprofessional in what they do, we are guilty of being more lenient than they we ought to have been,” Kharge admitted.
Violations galore: Survey
A survey carried out by activists in the past two months in Chikkamagaluru district revealed there are about 450 homestays in the district. Of these, 281 had registered with the tourism department. The remaining 169 had not filed any application but were still running. Only 12 homestays are following the rules, the report said.