Manipur on the tourism map ? Run up to Sangai Fest

Law and order situation has improved. Manipur is on the map of the Look East Policy and is being touted as the gateway to south east Asia. The train has started chugging in and most significantly prohibition has been lifted. Perfect cocktail of different recipes to put Manipur on the map of the globe trotters and make the State an indispensable part in any itinerary drawn up by tourists from different parts of not only the country but the world. This is the line that the BJP led Government would like to verbalise how Manipur has progressed after the saffron party came to power at New Delhi in 2014 and in Imphal in 2017. Topping this up is the fantastic return to power at New Delhi in the 2019 Parliamentary election and at Imphal in the 2022 Assembly election. The script seems ready to put Manipur firmly on the map of all tourists wishing to travel to North East India and with the Sangai Festival fast approaching, the State Government seems intent on putting up a good show for all visitors. The process of beautifying Imphal is on in full swing and as media persons who usually return home in the dead of the night after putting the paper to bed, it is now an everyday experience to see the double lane Kanglapat road turned into a single lane way with repairing work on in full swing. It is the same on the Tiddim road with half portions of the road being barricaded to allow free work to beautify the median. All fine and perfectly acceptable, but it is important at this point to ask how many tourists the State Government is expecting this year, that is after a break of two years due to the global pandemic. How many tourists actually landed here during the Sangai festival of 2019 or earlier say in 2018 ? Does the footfall here compare favourably with the Hornbill Festival in neighbouring Nagaland ? It is only right that the Government now dish out the statistics before the Sangai Festival starts for this would give some an inkling of an idea on how the said festival is able to project Manipur to the outside world. Sprucing up Imphal is perfectly in line with the idea of playing the good host and one hopes that some of the important departments, such as the Power Department do not play truant. No one would want a repeat of the fiasco that was witnessed during a football match of the Durand Cup in August this year when the whole stadium was plunged into darkness after the power supply tripped.
One also hopes that some attention has been given to the food to be served at the numerous food stalls at the main venue of the festival. This is the time to showcase the authentic food of the people of Manipur and to make it click with all, the price should be competitive. It should not be a case of  needing a ‘microscope’ to see the meat being served on a plate of chicken chowmein, to borrow an old line which not only tickles but captures the reality so well. It is good to see that the Government has decided to spread the venue of the festival for that would give the visitors the  opportunity to see different parts of Manipur and not just be confined in Imphal. The problem of unnecessary traffic snarls and chaos will also be addressed to a certain extent in holding the festival at different venues. But for this to be truly effective, the Government will need to ensure that the road connecting say Moirang or Churachandpur and Imphal is well maintained. The roads too need to be well lit. The Sangai Festival has been taken as an example for it is at hand, but the reality is something much more would need to be done to put Manipur on the map of tourism. Forget about Goa, just how much does Imphal compare with say Shillong in Meghalaya or Gangtok in Sikkim or Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh ? Questions which may be raised in the run up to the Sangai Festival.