The state government, in its efforts to showcase and promote the multifarious potentials of the state has been organizing the Manipur Tourism Mega-Fest which is arguably the biggest and most extravagant affair in the state every year from 21st to 30th November and has been renamed ‘Sangai Festival’ since 2010 as a way to highlight the uniqueness of the Brow-Antlered Deer of Manipur. The state government, as has witnessed in the past, will spare no efforts or resources to make this year’s much anticipated event beginning today an astounding success. Tourists, dignitaries, cultural troupes, artisans and participants from abroad will also be witnessing the event which will undoubtedly provide an international feel to the whole affair. In all, the whole exercise can only be described as an attempt to showcase and promote the best of what the state has to offer to the world in terms of art and culture, handloom, handicrafts & fine arts, indigenous sports, cuisines & music, eco & adventure sports as well as the scenic natural beauty of the land and ethnic diversity of Manipur Society. The intention of the state government cannot be doubted. What remains unclear is the impact of this annual tryst on the state in terms of improvements or achievements of its intended objectives- and more importantly, what should have been inferred from this recurring disappointments in terms of the results rather than the actual hosting of the event which has been successful for the most part albeit with a few unfortunate and violent incidents which have failed to mar the spirits of the public.
And while the euphoric public is anticipating the extravaganza like every year, the overall atmosphere in the state is muted and even cautious. It would be interesting to see what the combined impact of demonetization and the ongoing economic blockade will have on the turnout and spending habits of the visiting public.
Admittedly, the limelight for the next many days will be on the Festival. And as with every past years, very few, if ever will even wonder about the plight of the shy and gentle endangered creatures whose namesake festival draws thousands of crowds from far and near to witness and experience the best the state has to offer. The total population of Sangai is at best contentious, for according to the 2013 census report, there are 160 Sangais (after allowing for standard error) in its natural habitat at Keibul Lamjao which jumped to 260 according to the latest census carried out by the Forest Department this year. What is certain though is that the Ithai Barrage has started to wreak havoc with the natural habitat of floating biomass or Phumdis on which the endangered and delicate species have thrived as the natural process of soaking up of vital nutrients by the biomass from the ground during the dry season has been prevented by the perennial waterlogging of the lake due to the barrage. While many schemes and plans are in the offing to address the problem, going by experience, there still remains the very real and imminent danger of the natural habitat of the endangered Sangai thinning down and disappearing, and along with it the prized state animal for good if action is not taken in time and in right earnest. There still is a very distinct possibility of the state holding a toast to a mirage.