The Protected Area Permit, PAP, has been lifted for four months now. While Manipur and Nagaland celebrated this development, neighbouring Mizoram was apprehensive that this would also ultimately lead to the lifting of the Inner Line Permit, ILP. The PAP restricts foreigners from travelling where it is in force while the ILP restricts entry of Indians into areas it has been promulgated. Mizoram, like Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland were under both these regulations until the Central government lifted the PAP on December 30 last year. The apparent fear is, once the ILP has been lifted, Mizoram would become swamped by migrants from the rest of India altering its demography irreversibly and to the disadvantage of the Mizos. But leave Mizoram`™s problem for the Mizo people to tackle, let Manipur handle its own too. At least on this count, Manipur should not have any worry as the ILP is not applicable to the state in any case.
But apart from facilitating foreign visitors, mostly working in the NGO sector to enter the state without too much problem, the stated purpose of the Centre`™s gesture, that of attracting foreign tourists into the state, has not taken off in any big way. The scenario remains very much where it was before the PAP was lifted, and the only other foreigners who come visiting are WWII pilgrims, both of the Allied countries as well as Japan. If the visitors are not the pilgrim type, then they are journalists sniffing for news. What exactly is not right? This is a question the state government and its tourism department must begin asking in earnest. As we can see it, some of the factors are certainly outside of the government`™s easy control. This is in particular the law and order situation, and nobody will have any doubt as to why this would be a big inhibitor for visitors. Nobody, not the least foreign visitors, would want to rush into what has now become the Wild East, and run the risk of being caught in crossfire.
But there are many other reasons why tourists, in fact anybody, would be keen to visit Manipur. Just one look at the daily dust clouds on all the roads in the capital city would deter anybody with a pair of lungs. Local residents are so desensitised that they now are resigned to what they think is their fate and would not complain. But it would be anybody`™s guess that many of them would be suffering from varying degrees respiratory tract infections because of the constant dose of dust they breathe in daily. Now just why would visitors want to come to the state and expose themselves to this indignity and health hazard? This is something the government can rectify, and it must do whatever is needed on a war footing, for it involves the health of everybody besides being an inhibitor for potential visitors to the state.
There are more reasons why no tourist would want to come to Manipur. Imagine yourself a tourist on a holiday travelling to other destinations in the world. Why would you like to go to a city where life grinds to a halt at 6pm? Why would you like to be in a place where you cannot even think of going out for a walk at 7pm, smell the evening air, have a clean local meal outside before returning to a clean hotel bed? Why again would you like to go to a place where after a long tiring day of travelling and sightseeing, you cannot even sit down and relax with a chilled beer? Why would you choose a destination where electricity is a scarce commodity and a city that goes dark after sunset? Why would anybody want to come to a place where there is such an acute shortage of potable water? Why would anybody with money to spend like to be affronted by the indignity of confronting garbage piles of plastic and other filth all over the city? The authorities in the government responsible for tourism development must wake up to this reality and act proactively if they are serious about boosting the tourism industry in state. Organising a tourism festival annually is hardly likely to do much towards this end. Fairs and fetes are a dime a dozen these days and even the tourism festival has today become just another one of these, although on a bigger scale. What is essential is to improve the entire atmosphere with the intention of making it visitors friendly.