NE Tourism conference has an eye for future prospects

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From Sukham Nanda

GANGTOK, Aug 26: A two-day regional consultation on responsible tourism in the North Eastern states of India kicked off this morning at the Regency Heritage retreat, Gangtok, Sikkim, organized by the Impulse NGO Network, Shillong, with technical support from Equations, Human Rights Law Network Sikkim and Sikkim University, and with Bhim Dhungel, minister for Tourism of Sikkim as the chief guest.

During the inaugural session of the discussion in the morning Sikkim Tourism minister Bhim Dhungel expressed that the north eastern states are turning towards exploring the highly rich tourism potential of the region for economic sustainability.

In fact the states of the north east, other than Assam, have no proper resources and are less developed as compared to the states in the mainland, which is why many states of the north east now consider tourism a priority for development, the minister added.

There is need for formulating policies as per the situation in each of the states so that the problems relating to any form of human trafficking, sexual exploitation of women and girls should be prevented while going ahead with the development of the Tourism industries in various states of the region, the Tourism minister added.

In the meantime, Hashina Kharbhi, team leader of the Impulse, highlighting the objective of the discussion mentioned during the inaugural session that the consultation is draft for a state policy for safe and responsible tourism which will be sent subsequently to all the states in North East India to be discussed in a series of state consultations.

She further mentioned that the final draft would be formulated and sent to the Central government for approval, and this done in first phase, the second phase would involve creation of code of conduct for the tourism industry to prevent the exploitation of women and children. It will be discussed in a similar way as draft policy and sent for government approval.

Then the implementation phase of the initiative would begin in the form of a programme for training of trainers to raise awareness among the members of the tourism industry so that they could further train the staff and employees about the policy of stopping the exploitation. The whole project will run for one year, she added.

The brainstorming session began with the conclusion of the inaugural session with several personalities of the north east, including the Opposition leader of the Mehgalaya Legislative Assembly Conrad Sangma, on the topic of historical perspectives and current trends and challenges to tourism development in the North East.

Aditi Chanchani, coordinator of Equations gave a presentation on the topic of overview on tourism trends and policy perspective. Dr. Ranjana Kumara, president of Women Power Connect, New Delhi made a presentation on Tourism and Gender concerns – Gender based violence with special reference to Gender budgeting.

Ramananda Wangkheirakpam from the Forum for Indigenous Perspectives and Action, Manipur, Shushil Huidrom of the Centre for People’s Concern, Manipur and Chief Reporter of the Imphal Free Press, Sukham Nanda were among the resource persons who are attending the discussions and highlighting various issues related to the ‘Civil society perspectives on Tourism’, ‘Impact of Tourism on women and Children – from legal perspective’ and ‘Role of media on critical issues in tourism in North Eastern region’.

Large participation on various topics and presentations by the resource persons from various parts of the North Eastern state marked the uniqueness of the first day of the consultation programme today.

There will be intense discussions on the points which were taken up during the discussion today in order to prepare a unique draft resolution.

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