Tourism takes wings in Meghalaya
Tourism is back on its feet with familiar scenes of tourists from across the country flying in to visit the Home of Clouds. Hotel and guest house owners wear a smile as things slowly limp back to normal. Eating places are buzzing with activity and this is what will kickstart the sagging economy where it is of Meghalaya or the entire country and the world. Those employed in the hospitality industry who had to return during the pandemic are travelling back to their former workplaces or have found new beginnings. Tourists wishing to travel to Pdengshnong and Dawki however will have a horrendous journey with all the earth cutting work that is going on which has marred the beautiful landscape and disrupted the otherwise smooth drive on that stretch. This brings us to an important discussion which is about railways and their lower impact on the environment.
The resistance to railways by the Khasi Students’ Union and other pressure groups has never been tested against any rationale. The only claim of these groups is that railways will create influx which the state will not be able to deal with; that most workers in the railways, read porters, will be labourers coming in from outside the state. The question that arises is why are the local people not willing to undertake such work. That’s the alibi for keeping the anti-railway bogey alive. The fact is that there exists a strong truckers lobby in Meghalaya which does not want railways. Yet those whose business is with food grains and other high-volume items have expressed their concerns in having to rely on trains that come only as far as Guwahati. Their contention is that they are never made part of the debate on railways where they can express their views. It is and has always been a one-sided debate principally because there is no culture of dissent in Meghalaya.
Coming back to tourism, the Umroi airport has seen a rise in footfalls especially from Kolkata. The FlyBig flight between Shillong-Delhi has just taken off and being a turbo-prop Bombardier aircraft with about 76 seats passengers say it is uncomfortable especially when the plane enters into a dense cumulonimbus zone. The question then is when will Meghalaya have a big enough airport for a Boeing to land? Why does it take decades for Meghalaya to have a full-fledged airport? Tourism requires a fully functional airport where aircrafts land daily and not only on scheduled days. The tourism lobby should push hard to ensure that a top-class airport such as that of Guwahati or Imphal comes up here at the earliest.