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Anachronistic PAP

Come November 10 and a bedecked Imphal, thanks to the window dressing exercise that has been going on for the last few weeks, will roll out the red carpet for Mrs. Gandhi to inaugurate and dedicate the swanky, plush and newly constructed three all women market complexes to the womenfolk of Manipur. We have already said what can possibly be said about the significance of the market places and it is a foregone conclusion too that the undisputed boss of the Congress party must have been briefed or will be briefed about the history and the significance of the three market complexes, the only ones of its kind in the world.

It also does not need the critical and minute analysis of the FBI or the CIA or RAW, to draw the conclusion that apart from stressing on the historical importance of the markets, its appeal to tourists, especially the foreigners will not go unmentioned.

Call it just the blabbering of some underdeveloped minds or someone with a motive, but Manipur has been described as one of the more naturally beautiful places in the country. Its pleasant climate apart, the people of this State has been fooled into believing that Manipur features prominently in the itinerary of tourists, both domestic as well as foreigners. The Sangai, the Shiroy Lily, the Loktak Lake, the fauna and flora of each of these places, Keibul Lamjao, INA complex etc have been quoted more than enough by the political big wigs when it comes to the tourism potential of this State. Either these people who keep on harping about the tourism potential are under the impression that they can fool the public by organizing some festival such as the Loktak Festival or they are fools themselves, who just cannot see the reality and digest it.

A look at Imphal should be enough. Who in is his right mind would want to visit this so called capital of a State, where load shedding is an everyday affair and getting uninterrupted power supply for six hours at a stretch is something of a luxury. Who would want to come to a place, which just do not have proper accommodation facilities not to talk about lack of running water? Keep in mind there are people from foreign soils who are very particular about the toilet facilities as well as the water they drink.

Okay Hotel Classic has come up recently but just as a swallow does not make a summer a three starred hotel does not guarantee a place where accommodation is not a problem. What we would like to drill into the heads of these obnoxious characters, who have donned the role of political leaders and those who walk the corridors of power where decisions are taken, is the plain fact, that no one, at least those with some sense wants to hear about the tourism potential of the State, especially when it comes from our home grown politicians.

Things may take a new direction once the Trans-Asian Highway is realized, but that is not going to happen tomorrow and Manipur will not find a place on the map of tourist destinations for quite a while and it is more than right that the State Government and others concerned put their heads together, think out of the box and ask Delhi why we are continuing with an Act that was passed during the British

Raj and whether this Act is in sync with the time, when the world is fast becoming a global village, especially when Delhi is talking so much about the Look East policy !

No doubt, geography and history play an important role in enacting any legislation and the numerous restrictions put into force during the British Raj is typical of a colonial power to treat the North East region as a frontier territory to ward off any incursions from hostile countries. This was somewhat acceptable in the sense that Manipur and the North East region came under the British Raj, when expansionism was the scale to determine the prestige and power of a Nation. However, for reasons that have not been spelt out explicitly but understood nevertheless, Delhi continues to cling to some of the most discriminatory legislations passed during the days of the British, a time when the Sun never sets on the British Empire. Some have defended the imposition of PAP and other restrictions on security ground as well as given it an ‘honorable’ explanation, dubbing it positive discrimination.

If the doors of the North East are thrown open to any Tom, Dick, Harry or Chow or Lee from China, then the local population may lose its basic character, is the basis for clinging on an Act which has outlived its utility. For the information of these gentlemen, we would like to educate them on the fact that much before the British came, the eastern door and western door of Manipur have always been opened. There were trade relations with Myanmar and other South East Asian countries and matrimonial alliances from its western neighbors such as Tripura. The idea of protectionism needs a totally new approach in this age, when the world has become so small, metaphorically speaking.

So the next time some political leaders speak about attracting tourists, especially the foreign types, they better be ready with some fast action reflexes for no one can take any chances, when shoe throwing has caught the imagination of quite a number of people across the world. The paradox is clear. While Delhiwallahs in their typical kurta pyjamas continue to speak about the beauty of the State and its tourism potential, they conveniently, by design, make sure that there are legislations which restrict the entry of foreign tourists to Manipur.

With the culture of Babudom ensuring that moving a file from one table to another is a tough task, getting a PAP for some foreign tourists is not a matter of joke, for it could mean chasing one official or the other to get things done. On the other hand the red tapism and the officialdom or Babudom should not come as a surprise in Manipur as it is probably the only place in the whole world where combing or search operation is necessitated in the high security Sajiwa jail. No we are not joking!

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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