Karnataka’s Coast Is Nobody’s Baby

Karnataka’s Coast Is Nobody’s Baby

by Harsha Bhat - Saturday, August 1, 2020 12:03 PM IST
Karnataka’s Coast Is Nobody’s Baby

Mangalore (Representative pic)
  • As far as Karnataka is concerned, Mangalore or Dakshina Kannada in terms of its prospects for development has had everything but the political will to change the economic fabric of this tier-two city.

The pandemic has highlighted, yet again, the patterns of developmental lopsidedness in Karnataka.

One of the cleanest, most educated, and ‘obedient’ regions of the state, where rarely were they any instances of people defying lockdown norms saw a surge in the number of cases once inter-state movement of people was permitted.

The numbers saw an even greater jump with the arrival of flights from the gulf.

For a city that is barely a few kilometres in radius, the number of migrants is huge and most have not come back for good.

In June alone, we saw 3,500 people return from the gulf and the district had 100 containment zones.

On Wednesday, Dakshina Kannada crossed the 5,000 mark and the numbers continue to rise as we speak.

The number stood at 5,509 yesterday of whom only 2,561 have been discharged so far.

If we count Udupi, then Avibhajita Dakshina Kannada is inching close to 10,000.

A looming economic crisis we stare at, if at all there be more reverse migration, for the city’s returnees predominantly aren’t the class C or D workers or labour class migrants who will get back in a month or two.

These were those who chose to call another city home because there was not much they could do here.

And this, when there be no lack of resources — of absolutely any kind.

For the last three decades, people on the southern coast of Karnataka have been taking visitors to the same few factories to showcase ‘industry’ in the region — A long stretch by the beach with MRPL, ONGC, the New Mangalore Port Trust with the name of Ullal Sirinivas Mallya silently announcing the person who last campaigned for anything of that stature, be it in terms of investment, industry or enterprise, to come to Dakshina Kannada.

As far as Karnataka is concerned, Mangalore or Dakshina Kannada in terms of its prospects for development has had everything but the political will to change the economic fabric of this tier-two city.

Compare it to the other competitors of Bengaluru and Mysuru, and North Karnataka, it has everything that these two prime cities have and also that which they don’t.

Being on the coast, it was the first to have all three modes of transport — road, rail and air.

While numerous airports have been announced in the northern half of the state, our table top one is only remembered either in memory of the tragic aircrash, the jihadist bomber who decided to take the entire state for a ride, or for gold smuggling.

Talk of resources, the district has the socio-cultural fabric of a Mysuru, the outlook of a commercial trade centre — which it was from times immemorial — the intellectual resource of a Bengaluru with the highest number of colleges, educational institutions, and has had the pride of giving the country the maximum number of bankers and hoteliers.

Culturally, it is a diverse mini cosmopolis, yet, has no new jobs for the last three decades.

Irrespective of the parties in power, the city has only seen a few concrete roads being laid once in a while.

Even when it was being touted as the next big investment destination around a decade ago, it failed to lure any big names.

Because, in this part of the state, development has been piously slaughtered at the altar of communalism.

The only time Mangaluru makes news is when there is an attack.

From the pub attack, to the church attack, to the recent anti-CAA protester attack, to killings of Hindu activists, only noise makes news here.

But when you tour the city, you will come to understand that it is anything but a bunch of goons waiting to attack each other at the drop of a hat.

A very small percentage of second-generation entrepreneurs have stayed back here.

A premature empty nest syndrome has begun to haunt the city for the last decade or so.

Testimony to this is the issue of intercity travel between capital city Bengaluru and the coast that raises its ugly head every monsoon.

This is probably the first monsoon in over a decade where youngsters, who have no option but to work in Bengaluru (the only IT giant here is Infosys), are at peace, because they are not travelling, thanks to the pandemic.

Migration has been characteristic of this city, with people migrating en masse to Mumbai two generations ago, the last generation witnessing a Gulf exodus and the current generation finding solace in Bengaluru.

And this has predominantly been because the politics of the region has for the last decade or since the 90's only been communal.

While the rest of the state has caste factors, developmental issues, and much more to debate and vote for, here, both national parties have only played to the galleries and kept the sole agenda debilitatingly afloat.

The only state cabinet minister from the region is the Minister for Fisheries and Muzrai Kota Srinivas Poojary who is an MLC.

And the only mention of the region in the Budget has been for fisheries and related activities.

The recent anniversary celebration of one year of the BS Yediyurappa government in the state, too, saw no representation from the coast.

There were around 10 people who spoke of different schemes affecting their lives, but not one was from the coast. And all this despite being hailed as the "shakti kendra" or the power centre of the Bharatiya Janata Party and giving the state its highest number of MLAs in a region.

Well, may be, because there is no narrative to be set here — No ground to be gained.

Unlike the Mysuru region, whose MP Pratap Simha has in recent times, loudly stamped the region with infrastructure development, or North Karnataka, which has seen leaders such as Pralhad Joshi, and Jagadish Shettar being given important portfolios, the land of the intelligent or the buddhivantara ooru, has been given the short end of the stick.

For, the 'intelligent ones' continue to leave for greener pastures, while the rest stay back nursing the same old wounds.

The pandemic can be a huge opportunity for this resource-rich investment friendly region, if only those who can, do make up their mind to be more than meme material.

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