Social harmony inevitable for tourism development

POOR infrastructure for industrial development in Manipur has virtually left tourism among the few viable options to generate invaluable income and improve the state’s economy. Regardless of successive governments initiating various measures, such as expansion of the lone airport, removal of the rapidly expanding floating biomass of the Loktak lake for restoring the water body to its pristine glory, plans to develop ropeways or cable-cars between hillocks at different locations and promote tourism in the hill districts, the vision for drawing tourists en-masse to Manipur are yet to be satisfactory. Amid apparent indisposition by both domestic and international tourists to explore the natural beauty, and rich flora and fauna of Manipur, there have been continuous plans and efforts to project Manipur as a tourist destination in the form of organising tourism promotional events such as Manipur Sangai, Shirui Lily and reinvigorated Barak Spring festivals, with none other than chief minister N Biren taking the lead role for purposeful tapping of the tourism potential. The objective to enhance the state’s profile as eco-tourism hotspots, however, is yet to materialise on account of the state having earned the undesirable reputation of being a land of agitation and social discord, eventually diluting its prospects to become a major tourism hub, at-least in the north-eastern region. In-spite of the various impediments, recent events which the chief minister took part and succeeded in winning over the hearts of the local populace is being considered by many as testimony of the new government’s effort to bridge the trust deficit yielding positive responses.

There have been strong yearnings for decades among the common people that tourism and its associate activities in Manipur will bring benefits to all sections of the society and spur economic development. Though the state has a negative reputation, with insurgency problem also one of the factors, ecotourism can provide a silver lining in case proper attention is given to minimise the drawbacks as fruition in the efforts for bringing in nature loving tourists would have tremendous impact on the overall growth of this landlocked state. Past as well as present state governments have raised the curtains for ecotourism in natural reserves and there is no reason why Manipur should not join the race to reap the riches with minimal investment in case social harmony could be restored, for no visitor would like to take the risk of venturing into remote unfriendly territories, notwithstanding the scenic landscape and exploration sites that these places might be blessed with. It is obvious that in case restive situation prevails in the state or there is absence of camaraderie among the locals, outsiders would not be impressed or enthused in sparing theirs budget. Importance of congenial environment to attract the tourists could be assumed from the case of trouble-torn Kashmir valley, where the number of tourists is learnt to have declined sharply ever since militancy erupted in the late 1980s. It is estimated that Jammu and Kashmir lost 27 million tourists in between 1989 and 2002 leading to an even disastrous revenue loss amounting to crores of rupees. While the northern state having much superior infrastructure and popular tourist spots than Manipur continues to suffer on account of militancy, it would be wishful thinking that tourists will flock into Manipur despite its law and order uncertainties.

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