Celebrating ‘anti-tourism’ day

By Nawaz Yasin Islam

The tourism sector of India needs no introduction. “Incredible India” has a tourism industry plagued by severe worker shortage, insufficient accommodation, unclean rooms and food problems. Many places in the interior of the country are not well connected by proper roads, railways or airways. To add to the list of failure, excessive bureaucracy also delays new hostels and transportation projects.

The recent celebrations of ‘World Tourism Day’ in Meghalaya on September 27 is only another means of humiliating oneself, mocking tourists and insulting capabilities. In the Mukul Sangma regime, development is limited to ‘basins’ and ‘fishes’ and celebrating ‘anti-tourism’ day could be the best form of acknowledging the hands down degraded scenario we have in the offing.

It’s about time that the Google links to Shillong be updated. The lure offered by tags like ‘Abode of the clouds’, ‘Being one with nature’, ‘Scotland of the East’ and not to forget the ‘Rock capital of India’ are as old as the existence of the Mughal Dynasty and even remnants of the same are hard to come by.

Misleading the tourists coming in to Shillong, misusing allocations and shying away from responsibilities have been the sad trademarks of the departments who could have taken Shillong to another level. With a state blessed with natural beauty and terrific climate, working in tandem with nature has every result directed towards success and overall development.

We talk about being discriminated and ignored in the hands of outsiders and even our very own centre, but did we ever make an effort to bring about a change? The tourism sector with a potential of putting Meghalaya on the world map is in ruins. No questions ever asked has plummeted the State to shambles.

Starting from entering the State to taking a walk around, the journey to Shillong becomes memorable in every wrong way possible. Scenes, situations and epic events that makes Shillong a ‘must-try-before-you-die’ adventure for the only reason that there is so much degradation to offer.

The entry to the State is no less adventurous. With the recent self styled NGO commandoes taking a hell bent stand of curbing the influx issue, tourists are welcomed in the traditional way of being made to stand in a line while they are frisked and have their documents validated by the ‘filtering unit’ of Meghalaya.

The experience is pretty exciting when you feel like you are in some middle eastern country ravaged by war and every individual is scanned inside out before entry.

If only the Government could come up with some permanent solution regarding influx, we could think of welcoming tourists perhaps with kwai and drumbeats! Well, a brochure would be a magnificent addition.

Provided a tourist manages to clear the ‘analyzer test’ at the self made check gates; the ‘journey to hell’ takes off. The roller coaster ride with Sumos racing and evading ‘mid-road’ holes at the back drop of massive deforestation is just an appetizer.

The view is neither breathtaking not spine chilling but the road condition ensures that neither spines remain in place not a comfortable breath be taken!

Half way into the journey, the Tourism Department shows its first signs of ‘efficiency’! The lack of a decent affordable place to grab a bite or relieve oneself sans the welcoming stench and onslaught of flies is the first gift for a weary traveler. Behold! There are lots in store.

The Tourism department like any other ‘failure’ in the State work year round but the outcome are interestingly invisible.

From transportation to accommodation, from food to ‘sigh’-seeing (not sight-seeing), its impact is negligible and efforts ignorable! Promotion is a word that hardly exists.

The first thing is a place of stay and the department sponsored housing facilities are a mess in itself. Either you have to lie down in a cozy bed shelling out huge amounts of cash or cramp yourself in a shabby hotel or a room in some unknown lane! Well how many tourists are fortunate enough to know a state figure who arranges accommodation in Tripura Castle.Congratulations Department of Tourism…this is a great head start!

What follows next are a sequence of events that can only be handled well provided the tourist is another Mr Bean who can accustom or improvise himself in any situation with the simple shrugging of the shoulders and “aah bea bea!”.

The city view for the tourist will surely earn Shillong the new name of ‘Scrapland of the East’.

Incomplete ‘beautification’ projects lagging for years coupled with dysfunctional fountains, missing street lights, broken footpath railings guarding the already broken paths, ‘open hearted’ garbage disposal and our very own bumpy rides thanks to the ‘insufficiently-funded’ departments have honestly shown that this sector of tourism just cannot be handled, neither by the Tourism department nor the Chief Minister sitting at the recluse of his cabin or laying the foundation stone for another project which will take a decade to near completion.

The list of failure is just an addition to the standards that are proudly displayed. Which tourist will love to be a part of such a stagnant infrastructure? Even if a tourist manages to ignore the way the city looks and gets into a stuffed taxi (for we fail to have proper tourist ferrying vehicles), the stop at tourist spots is no less memorable.

The only tourist destinations within the city walls have nothing to offer, forget about the farfetched interior waterfalls like the stunning Kynrem falls which are nearly forgotten. What stands amusing here is the fact that most of the scenic waterfalls have no road connectivity. It has become a fad to hire a tourist vehicle and visit some pre defined spots planned by the driver.

Broken cages with poverty stricken animals that are meant to serve the visual needs of being entertained together with a relatively clean ‘flower garden’ in the Lady Hydari Park and a little collection of water with Rohu fishes and a dangerously old antique bridge is all that can be visited within city limits. Well a fountain was added in Khyndai Lad with some hope that it would add to the beauty but sadly it remains off half the year and can be easily neglected.

Well I suppose our narrow mindset might be a result of the words above. Who knows that the Tourism department might actually be working day and night to present the picture of “Hungry India…Poor India” to outsiders! Since we are still listed as a developing country, maybe these little efforts can be recognized. If not…please fake some shame for in reality you superseded it all!

 

Could this be the silver lining?

The State Government has initiated

several projects for development of tourist destinations and improvement of existing tourist spots across the State. Prominent among these are projects being implemented in the surroundings of the picturesque Umiam Lake in Ri Bhoi district, which also includes the Orchid Lake Resort.

As part of the initiative, the government is also planning to develop circuit tourism in various prominent tourist destinations of the state. Notably, works on some of these projects are progressing while for some, detailed estimations are being prepared.

Sources also informed that in Umiam, the Tourism Department has commenced construction of cottages, swimming pools and health clubs besides remodeling of the existing infrastructure at the Orchid Lake Resort. For this purpose, the Central Government has released an amount of Rs 231.32 lakh out of the total sanction of Rs 289.15 lakh.

Meanwhile, projects that are being implemented by the department in Tura include construction of wayside amenities, picnic spots and construction of additional resort at the existing Tura Orchid Lodge and the Centre has already released Rs 389.60 lakh out of the sanctioned amount at Rs 487 lakh for the same.

Circuit tourism is one of the major initiatives adopted by the state and the target is to provide all the basic amenities required by tourists ranging from wayside amenities, dhaba, boat house, cafeteria, swimming pools, guest house, kiosks, observatory tower, car parking and mush more.

The first project in this category would be implemented along the stretch from Byrnihat-Nongpoh-Sumer and Shillong. A similar project is being executed along the Mawkdok-Sohra route and the Centre has sanctioned Rs 674.15 lakh for these projects out of which Rs 576.59 lakh has already been released.

Similar projects are also being implemented in Williamnagar, Jakrem, Nartiang and Jowai for which the Centre has released an amount of Rs 640 lakh out of the total sanctioned amount of Rs 885 lakh.

Meanwhile, sources informed that there are three circuit tourism projects where the detailed estimations are still being prepared. Similar facilities which are covered under tourism circuit project will be implemented in the selected areas.

One of these projects is along the Mawphlang-Mawsynram-Lawbah-Balat and Ranikor route. The Centre has sanctioned Rs 368.89 lakh for the project with Rs 295.11 being released. The second is for Sohra which also includes the proposed setting up of Tourism Information Centre (TIC), convention centre, village inn besides other facilities.

The third project will cover the stretch from Pongtung-Pomshutia-Mawlynnong and Dawki. The Centre has released an amount of Rs 456.55 lakh out of the total Rs 570.69 lakh sanctioned.

Another project will be implemented along the stretch from Barengbara-Gasuapara-Rongara-Mahadeo upto Balpakram in Garo Hills. The total amount sanctioned for it is Rs 642.85 lakh and Rs 514.28 lakh has been released.

A project on the development of the stretch from Shillong-Mawryngkneng-Jowai-Khliehriat-Lumshnong-Sonapur and Ratacherra is also on the cards and the Centre has released Rs 487.23 of the total Rs 608.04 lakh sanctioned for it.

The Centre has also released Rs 430.58 for development of amenities along the Tura-Garobadha-Selsella-Bhaitbari-Phulbari and Tikrikilla stretch.

The last project is connected with development of tourism destinations at Resulbelpara in East Garo Hills and an amount of Rs 281.11 lakh has been sanctioned for this purpose. Out of the total amount, an amount of Rs 244.89 lakh has already been released. For further development of rural tourism, a project is being implemented in Sasatgre village. As part of the rural tourism project, the Union Government has also sanctioned Rs 23.95 lakh in capacity building and an amount of Rs 16 lakh has been released. (By Lamphrang Nongspung)

 

Six reasons why tourists would avoid Shillong

1. ENTRY LEVEL FUN

The sight of NGOs validating documents and publicly humiliating outsiders by making them stand in a line holding ears can be disturbing. No tourist would love to be a part of such an adventure. No wonder that the NGO stand is valid owing to the ignorant attitude of the Government in such an issue. To add to this, there are reports of police personnel asking for insignificant pollution certificates all of a sudden and scraping off huge sums in the pretext of understanding their dilemma!

 2. MISSED MANAGEMENT

Why would a tourist come visit a place ruled by street thugs? The moment a tourist lands, a bunch of cabbies would swarm offering unheard prices for a ‘Shillong trip…Shillong Tour’. It is outrageous that they are still being allowed to function and that too in the main hub we call Police Bazaar. Security issues pose a concern. Tour arrangements with proper guide facilities are hard to find, even in the city.

3. NO ROOF…NO SHELTER

The lack of proper accommodation facilities can be a killer. Shillong offers no respect for families coming with a tight budget. You either stay in the comfort of cash in a jazz hotel or rot in the stench of poverty emitted from the little known lodging facilities. Lack of accommodation in hot spots is a shame. The routine remains the same every year…have your breakfast in city…visit the waterfalls…be home by dinner!

 4. BUMPY RIDES

The ‘not-so-welcoming’ state of roads is what repels tourists and hosts alike! With every ride being nothing less than a sleepless experience, the highways and lanes are in a sad state of affairs. The condition now is such that there is no provision to evade a pot hole for the turning of the steering wheel only leads to another! To add to woes is the horrific traffic jam which has become a part of daily life.

 5. NO SHOPPING ZONE

There is an absolute lack of price and quality control from the Government’s side. If you are thinking of carrying back mementoes, get some fat balance for even a single Khasi knife could ‘cut’ a deep hole in your wallet. The emporium or stalls can be best avoided. Though a failed attempt at removing the hawkers is being undertaken, they are the only best buy!

6. SHILLONGITES

This is more of an ‘inner’ disease. Facelift in the reverse order has surely tarnished the image of this hill station. With almost every individual spitting red juice, colouring zebra patterns with left over lime from their ‘kwai break’, the pavements have become colourful in a manner that can be labeled as displeasing. What adds to disgust is the washing away of these stains by the very own people ‘relieving’ themselves in every nook and corner in full public view.

 (The author can be contacted at [email protected] Old issues can be tracked at thehereticcorner.wordpress.com)

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