EDITORIAL

Central funds for NE tourism

tourism

Union tourism minister KJ Alphons said in Kisama in Nagaland on Wednesday that the Centre had given a whopping sum of Rs 1351 crore to the eight states of the North-eastern Region in order to boost its tourism potential. This is a huge sum of money, which even if equally divided among the eight states, means Rs 193 crore per state. But when it comes to the ground, people across the region have not been able to see anything significant happening to the major tourist destinations. Nagaland’s entire concentration, for instance, has been on the week-long Hornbill Festival which definitely attracts a good number of foreign tourists during a fixed period of the year. But then, when one looks at the other destinations that have potential for attracting tourists, the situation is indeed pathetic. Dimapur, the entry point to the state by road, railways or air, is said to be one of the dirtiest cities in the country. The road to Kohima itself is in bad shape; tourists simply cannot think of traveling from Kohima to Wokha by the so-called national highway to see the Amur falcons that arrive there in lakhs from Siberia for a few weeks every year. Now, look at Assam. Kaziranga, the hottest destination, is rapidly losing its serenity, thanks to mushroom growth of dhabas, restaurants and so-called resorts, most of which have immensely contributed towards air, water and noise pollution around the World Heritage Site, Influential and powerful people have set these up right on the National Park’s boundary, with the state government sitting on a National Green Tribunal order to remove all such activities from the fringes of Kaziranga. Meanwhile, a recent film produced by none other than Assam Tourism’s brand ambassador Priyanka Chopra has raised many eyebrows; the film’s story is woven around, of all things, insurgency. What motivated Chopra to project insurgency through her film remains simply unexplained, while the fact is that it will only scare away tourists instead of attracting them to Assam. The Assam government has not been able to tell what positive impact the tourism sector has seen since appointment of the actor as the state’s tourism brand ambassador. While the Centre claims to have provided Rs 1351 crore to the North-east for tourism development, accommodation for tourists in most destinations is bad; government-owned tourists lodges are dirty, stinking, infested by cockroaches, mosquitoes and other pests, the food is poor, and so also the quality of manpower engaged to service the tourists. What common people are now compelled to suspect is that it is the tourism ministers and officers of different states of the region who have benefited the most from huge funds from the Centre. One small instance – a large team of tourism officials from Assam visited several foreign countries including the UK and USA recently to promote tourism.