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I chanced to watch one of the media channels where Deputy Chief Minister of Meghalaya, Mr Prestone Tynsong asserted vehemently that the proposed mall should come up at Barik Point and that anyone who wants a green space should look for it beyond Shillong. If not the entire cabinet of the MDA, it seems that Tynsong at least is hell bent on seeing this monstrous structure come up at Barik. As a mature politician, Tynsong should know that the Government functions on the will of the people because this is a democracy and in a democracy the people are the real custodians of power. The views of all the MLAs of Shillong must be taken into consideration. Moreover, a public debate on an issue such as what should come up at the Barik heritage site is imperative at this juncture. Mr Tynsong may be the Deputy CM but he does not represent the views of the people of Shillong. He can construct a mall in Pynursla if he wants to but not in Shillong at any cost!
Transform Shillong- A city in a garden
More than half of the world’s population lives in the urban areas. By 2050 two-thirds of humanity is expected to reside in urban areas, and Shillong city, already so densely populated is no exception to this trend. Shillong is all about “un”: unplanned, unhealthy and unsustainable. Already, one-third of the City has been converted into a concrete jungle, which destroys the human spirit. We are in the 21st century with innovative advancement. Can we afford to inherit the poor planning and management of our city ? It is never too late to plan and transform Shillong into “ a city in a garden ” to restore it to its former glory. Hence, part of the agenda of the Government is to have a vision to green our city and initiate the ‘Shillong Green Movement’. Instead of developing a frenzied commercial centre at the PWD premises at Barik, the urban planners in the State Government should come up with the concept of Green Shillong in this particular premise.
Dr Omarlin Kyndiah,
Thoughts on new tourism policy
Meghalaya’s new tourism policy, now under preparation, appears to be a utopian dream and a killjoy for the small time entrepreneurs in the outlying areas. Firstly, the policy, as has been reported in The Shillong Times last week, has very little short-term content for addressing the stagnation of the tourism-oriented economy which is currently at its nadir. Consequently, those who eke out a living out of tourism find themselves in a state of penury. If the tourists do not return soon, over 50,000 families will have to find alternative sources of livelihood. They cannot endure it any more. Their frustration and helplessness must be addressed by the government by some effective short-term measures. Before long, the government must come out with something positive for them to survive.
The experience of opening three destinations to local tourists may be a first cautious step, but why should local residents move in hordes to see places which they know like the back of their hand? The first few days at Wards Lake and Elephant falls have not been able to attract too many people. The trend is unlikely to change a lot in the coming weeks. Let us face it, during pandemic nobody will be willing to risk it. Therefore, the government’s top priority should be to keep all stakeholders interested in the industry. In this regard, I would like to suggest that government should urgently provide some financial succour to the worst effected lot.
Viewed in this context, the thinking of the government to target upend tourists is flawed. Nobody is going to travel unless the pandemic is contained to everybody’s satisfaction. I am not sure how many, or more importantly, when the niche tourists will arrive. Given the prevailing situation, international flights are suspended. Domestic movement too is sluggish. Only those who have to travel are travelling. The critical point is: Nobody is interested in tourism when people feel vulnerable and lives are at stake. Therefore, all the big talks about resurrection of tourism will look good only on paper.
Another hard fact about tourism which the policy makers have missed is that this industry thrives mainly on the budget tourists. The middle class constitutes the bulk of the tourists, at least in India. If they are not in the scheme of things, there is very little chance of tourism returning to its glorious best as was witnessed before the pandemic stopped it all. COVID-19 is not going to disappear in a hurry. It may take a couple of years, at least, before a semblance of normalcy returns. Do our stakeholders have the wherewithal to withstand the stagnation in the economy?
Jargons like “carrying capacity”, “circuit tourism” etc are all fine. But that cannot give muscle to the industry. The upend tourists are choosy about what they buy or where they take meals. The infrastructure in the rural areas is still rustic and rudimentary. I shudder to think what might happen to the chains of small road side vendors, tea stalls and dhabas which sprang up during the past decade or so. The policy doesn’t appear to have taken a realistic view. I somehow get the impression that the government has decided to keep the budget tourists out of their radar. May I know, why? Even if there is a plausible ground, perhaps, more important question will be, how? Is there any mechanism to check the economic status of a tourist? For argument’s sake, even if the government introduces e-permits, why should they choose Meghalaya when they can visit so many other places without any restrictions?
I would be happy, if the government can factually and convincingly allay my fears.
Name withheld on request,
Lifeline on wheels
The national transporter Indian Railways is now going to restart 80 more trains from September 12. The Railways had launched 15 pairs of special air-conditioned trains from May 12 and 100 pairs of timetabled special trains from June 1 previously. The train service is convenient for scholars who need to attend various examinations and above all for migrant workers, employees, and other economic activities. The Railways must ensure to follow all precautionary measures which are related to COVID-19 and facilitate a pleasant journey to the passengers. We expect that the country’s lifeline will be restored on wheels with full capacity in a little while
Amit Singh Kushwaha,