Monday, 5 August 2013

Kotagiri residents still await their powerful neighbour's glance

Several years ago when chief minister Jayalalithaa bought the sprawling Kodanadu estate and made it her vacation home, residents of the tiny hill town of Kotagiri, which is the closest urban neighbourhood to Kodanadu,  were jubiliant.  They hoped that the presence of one of the top politicians in the state might transform the fate of their land.

But, residents of this this picturesque hill station, which has always been given a pass when compared to Ooty and Coonoor, are now sulking.  

 “Whenever the chief minister comes to stay at Kodanadu, atleast two to three contingents of police are stationed in Kotagiri. They come and stay in our guest houses and hotels free of charge, rarely pay for the meals they eat and add to our misery,” says Francis Peter, owner of a modest resort in Kotagiri. “When police officials come and ask for room to stay we cannot deny them,” he says.

Those in the tourism industry point out that over the last decade and more, business here has been dull. “We get tourists only for four months in a year. We manange the rest of the year using the income we generate during those four summer months,” says another lodge owner. “With increased police presence and frequent movement of convoys, whateever little business we had has also dwindled.”

Kotagiri was not always like this. “This place used to be a boom town about twenty years ago. We had so much business in Kotagiri that I had sto end away customers without providing service,” says Bava Sikandar, who runs Hotel Kasthuri, one of the oldest hotels in the city that has been operating for over three decades. “Today, I am contemplating about moving back to the plains as I see no future here,” he says.

Bava fondly recollects the hey days of Kotagiri when tea business was good. “Tea is the only industry here and during the 1980s, our businessmen made a lot of profits. We even had four movie theatres here back then. They have all been closed down over the years one after another due to loss of patronage,” he says. The last theatre Nighton was closed down about eight years ago.

After the tea markets crashed, the economy of this little town has never recovered. “The state government has not tried to bring any other industry to this part of the Nilgirils,” says Bava.

Many of the residents have already moved to Coimbatore, Tirupur and other cities in the plains. The few who still brave it out hope that the state government revives the economy of this scenic town and provide sources for income generation. 

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