Though the state’s pilgrimage tourism season usually peaks during the Dasara holidays, the inflows to temples in Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts this year have been modest, thanks to the dismal state of roads.
Though the two districts are dotted with well-known temples such as Kukke Subramanya, Kateel Durgaparameshwari, Kollur Mukambika, Udupi Krishna, Hattiangady Siddivinayaka and Dharmasthala, tourists are staying away and visiting temples in other districts.
The Dakshina Kannada district can be approached via Charmady ghat (Chikmagalur), Sampaje (Kodagu), Shirady (Bangalore), and Manjeshwar (Kerala); all of them are in bad shape.
Sadashiva Rao, a regular traveller between Mysore and Dakshina Kannada, said, “The distinction between the roads of Dakshina Kannada and other districts are clearly visible on the border areas. At Sampaje, this distinction is most evident. At the checkpost, the State Highway 88 towards Kodagu is smooth as silk and on the Dakshina Kannada side it resembles the surface of the moon. Despite Dakshina Kannada’s economic development, the roads give a feeling that you were entering a highly backward district and it dissuades motorists.”
The distance between Mysore and Sampaje is 150 km and it takes less than 2 hours to cover it. However, it takes more than two hours to cover the much shorter (50 km) Sampaje-Puttur stretch.
When contacted, Sullia MLA S Angara said the road was being relaid on Mani-Mysore road project and it would take not less than one year to complete the stretch. However, he felt that despite plans to relay the road, the existing one should be maintained at ‘hazard free’ levels.
The situation is not different at approaches on Shirady, Charmady and Manjeshwar.
The Kanara Chamber of Commerce and Industry has made several representations to the government. “But nobody appears to give a damn about the condition of roads in the district. We are the second most industrialised districts, after Bangalore in the state, we are the top of the list for knowledge-education and health tourism, our temple Kukke Subramanya was the top earner among all pilgrimage centres in the state. Then why are our roads like this?” observed Lata Kini, former KCCI president.
Authorities of Subramanya temple said that the volume of pilgrims this year during Dasara holidays so far was relatively lower compare with last year. Some pilgrims even complained to the peer about the road conditions. The temple authorities too have appealed to the district authorities and the politicians, but to no avail, they said.
As a result, pilgrims from Bangalore and Kodagu have instead turned their attention towards temples in Mysore district.
“We go to temples in Mysore such as Chamundeshwari, Melkote Cheluvanarayana, Bala Tripura Sundari, Sri Ranga, Nimishamba and many other shrines, where road conditions were better and we reach there with less fatigue,” said Ganapathy Machanda, a pilgrim from Kodagu.
Why the roads does are perennially bad? When asked, a senior official of the PWD said these were very old roads and do not have adequate foundation. The quality of the surface of a road depends heavily on its foundation.
KSRTC officials, who keep track of the vehicle maintenance costs, said that buses plying on Dakshina Kannada and Udupi roads attain scrap value within five years. Frequent repairs and high wear-and-tear of tyres are the bane of vehicle owners.
Private transport operators said that due to bad roads their business was no longer profitable, as maintenance costs were very high.