There is a sudden feel of anticipation in the air with the “Sangai Festival”- touted to be a showcase of the rich traditional and cultural heritage of the State which is scheduled from November 21. The emphasis of the festival is admittedly to draw in tourists to Manipur. There has also been a marked increase in the spending by the State Government with an intense beautification drive of the Imphal city in this regard. Yet those at the helm of affairs apparently missed the whole point of the exercise as various countries have expressed their apprehensions in participating at the tourism extravaganza. A radical approach needs to be implemented- from the point of view of a tourist. The starkly visible and seemingly omnipresent armed police personnel with their stern expressions and unapproachable attitude needs to be done away with urgent immediacy, even with the looming threat of violence and mindless mayhem from various quarters. That the Government and the police force are under tremendous pressure to prevent any untoward incidents would be an understatement- yet the fact remains that the sight of so many armed police and their “peculiar” style of dealing with the public leaves a lot to be desired and is proving to be a huge deterrent for the tourists- both domestic and foreign. A more people friendly and polite yet firm approach could definitely do a world of difference in the perception by the general public. More than the renovations and refurbishing of facades and roads, creating an atmosphere conducive to tourism should be given priority- a task easier said than done what with the worsening social and law and order conditions. Utilizing machines and other gadgets for security checks and reducing the presence or at least minimizing their utilization wherever possible would be a good start. Another often overlooked yet equally vital aspect that would make a huge difference in the efforts to make Manipur a tourist friendly state would be by improving the sanitation facilities existing in the state at present which is almost non-existent to say the least. There had been a lot of complaints and negative feedbacks on the inadequate and haphazard sanitation facilities being provided in the festival premises in the last edition compounded by the dismal maintenance of the same. But then, even adequate arrangement inside the festival premises would not serve the purpose as the whole city needs to be adequately prepared in this regard as well as other places of tourist interest as the overall set up will be crucial for sustaining and improving the prospects of tourism taking off in the State. That the State Government is sparing no efforts to make the Sangai Festival a resounding success is apparent, with the sudden spurt in beautification drives and renovation activities till the wee hours being witnessed by all and sundry- a far from the lethargic and often protracted working style the people of this small state has been used to, but nevertheless a welcome sight. One should extend support and cooperation in these efforts as the prospect for development of tourism in the small yet versatile state is immense. The Government and departmental heads responsible should take into confidence and consideration the suggestions and concerns of the public for a holistic development. Meanwhile, an open mind and a genuine smile should make for a great start to the whole momentum.
- Published in Editorial