Sangai Festival: Make it tourist-friendly

Dr Khomdon Lisam *

Closing function  at Manipur Sangai Tourism Festival 2013 at BOAT, Imphal
Closing function at Manipur Sangai Tourism Festival 2013 at BOAT, Imphal :: Pix - Arunkumar Thongam

According to reliable sources, the Sanagai festival will be held on 21-30 November, 2015. On 19 December , 2013, the Hon'ble Chief Minister, Okram Ibobi Singh informed the Manipur State Legislative Assembly that the State Government is on the look-out to find a permanent venue for the Manipur Sangai Festival and also mentioned that Lamboikhongnang khong has been identified as the possible site for construction of the a permanent location for the festival.

The people of Manipur particularly of Palace Compound, the Mahabali Kabui Khun, the Haopip Veng were very happy to hear the news. For a permanent site, a land space of at least 10 times the Hapta Kangjeibung may be required. At the permanent site, we can construct permanent buildings with modern designs and technology with all modern facilities for promoting tourism and trade.

But why do the Tourism Department or the PWD start constructing two permanent Toilet Blocks at Hapta Kangjeibung for a festival of only ten days in a year? Constructing a permanent building within a period of 30 days will be another record achievement. Who cares the quality of construction? The main question is - do we require permanent Toilet Blocks at Hapta Kangjeibung for a festival of only ten days?

The authorities start constructing RCC building on the north-western side of Hapta Kangjeibung and a second block on the southern side and the constructions has to be completed well before the inauguration of Sangai festival on 21 October, 2015. They have also installed a temporary toilet block on the eastern side. Although the temporary toilet block already installed is not attractive, it would have been better if the authorities install more of such temporary toilet blocks without constructing permanent structures.

Nowadays instead of constructing permanent buildings, even portable toilets or coin - operated temporary toilets or Pay-in temporary toilet block or toilet vans are available in India. Why can't the authorities think of installing these portable or coin - operated temporary toilets or Pay-in temporary toilet block or toilet vans in the forthcoming Sangai Festival. Constructing permanent toilet blocks in the Hapta Kangjeibung will destroy the beauty of the Hapta Kangjeibung. Since the Government has taken a decision to construct a permanent structure at Lamboikhonang khong, a permanent structure of the toilet blocks at Hapta Kangjeibung is not required at all.

Moreover, it will hurt the religious sentiment of the people. Shri Shri Govindaji temple is hardly 100 metres from the permanent toilet block. Hundreds of devotees of Shri Shri Govindaji start walking on foot every day along the road connecting Govindaji temple and Hanuman Thakur temple from 3.30 am onwards till late evening. If the authorities strongly insists on constructing toilet blocks, they may consider constructing it on the available vacant land on the northern side of the Iboyaima Shumang Lila Shanglen across the western road.

Moreover, keeping the Hapta Kangjeibung with strong barricade for the whole year under lock and key except the timing of Sangai Festival or for parking of innumerable vehicles detailed for election duty is not a wise decision. Earlier, members of State Archery Team used to practice archery, local boys and girls used to play football, young boys and girls used to come for chatting and old men will relax in the Hapta Kangjeibung, By keeping the Hapta Kangjeibung under lock and key all the year round, the young people are deprived of their rights to play and relax at Hapta Kangjeibung.

No other alternative park or garden is available nearby. Such denial of the rights of the young people give a negative feeling about the state government which is not good for the government. The people of Manipur are deprived of relaxation, peace and tranquility by denying access to public perks and gardens .

For the local people , the Sangai festival is a nightmare and nobody is happy because of five reasons (1) the Hapta Kanjeibung are found littered with discarded plastic bottles, torn pieces of paper, garbage, refuse, faeces giving out foul smells for weeks after the Sangai Festival is over. (2) the local people are inconvenienced because of restriction of movement of their vehicles. They can not enter their own homes during the Sangai Festival (3) it causes environmental pollution in the locality because of lack of proper waste management and environmental sanitation. (4) some of the restaurants inside the venue of Sangai Express openly sell dog meat, beef, meats of wild animals and that too just near the Shri Shri Govindaji and Hanuman Thakur temples which hurts the sentiment of the common people. (5) lack of involvement of the local clubs and the local people in organizing the festival destroying the ownership of the Sangai festival to the common people.

Last year on 19 November, 2014, I have made some simple suggestions regarding Sangai Festival in the prominent English newspapers of Manipur. I have put my suggestions in the light of my experiences in travelling to more than 19 countries of the world and all the states and union territories of India . I may be permitted to reiterate the suggestions again.

Please give No.-1 priority to hygiene and sanitation of the Sangai Festival . Please arrange for proper temporary toilets, safe drinking water supply, management of waste and proper disposal of the litters ,garbage and night soil within 24 hours after the festival is over.

The Tourism festival should not be confined to Hapta Kangjeibung only but cover all tourist spots in Manipur. ..

Please consider for development of the existing tourist spots to make it tourist -friendly Please think of making available sufficient no. of large beautiful boats including House Boats to enable the tourists to explore Loktak lake, go to the Phumdi Island and interact with people, spent one night there and come back in next morning. This is what foreigners want to do. Many of my American and English friends expressed their desire to go the Phumdi Island but I could not fulfil their desire due to absence of this facility.

Please consider developing beautiful picnic spots at appropriate places and charge the tourists accordingly.

Please organise Package Tours for going to Kangla, Loukoipat, , Phubala, Sendra, INA Memorial, Andro, Sekmai, Kaina, Moreh, Mao, Ukhrul, Churachandpur etc with guides and loud speakers inside the luxury buses (Low floor) / luxury vans in collaboration with private Tour Operators.

Please encourage private parties to establish three star hotels near Sendra , Phublala, Loukoipat, Ukhrul, Churachandpur, Mao etc.

Please consider developing the existing garden surrounded by small lakes located between Sendra and Moirang into a beautiful garden.

The foreign goods from Thailand, Myanmar (and China) displayed at Imphal are of very cheap and low standard quality. This might have been done it according to the request of Tourism Department, Manipur. Please ask them to bring better quality items.

Please coordinate and liaise with departments concerned for posting of young and good looking boys and girls at every first contact points like airports, hotels, travel agents, front desk counters, reception at the venues and also all exhibition staff and members. Older and more experienced people may be put in the second line as back-up.

Please do not garland the foreign visitors particularly from Myanmar and Thailand . It may amount to invading his/her privacy. Please give a beautiful flower (Rose/ Orchid) instead. According to Myanmar and Thai culture, no stranger is allowed to touch their heads. They are very sensitive about it. I was very happy when a young air hostess of Thai Airways gave me a beautiful orchid flower at the time of embarkation. Another point - can the authorities manage to do it for all passengers as an invitation to visit Sangai festival.

Teach the front-line workers "HOW TO SMILE TO THE VISITORS" without embarrassing them. All the personnel engaged in all aspects of the festival must be taught how to smile.

Reduce the registration fees of the Stall owners by 50%. The loss of revenue can be recouped from the sponsors like Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), tourism and hospitality industry, Advertisers, Hotels, Companies like Airtel, Samsung, Coca Cola, Provide room for free stall for deserving candidates. He authorities can mobilise lots of resources.

Please invite Japanese and British Embassies to the festival so as to enable them to send tourist to Manipur in connection with the memorial service to World War-II.

Please involve the tour operators in metropolitan cities of India so as to enable them to explore the possibilities of developing tour packages for Manipur

Please direct traffic police to allow free movement of the local people of Palace Compound , Haokip Veng , Mahabaki Kabui khun with vehicles on production of I.D.

If possible, please visit Travel and Tourism Faire (TTF) sites at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Guwahati and even Thailand, Singapore and plan for constructing a well planned, beautiful, modern Exhibition Centre at Lamboikhonang khong.

Please have confidence in the local clubs and involve them in managing the festival by allocating various duties and responsibilities.

May I appeal to the authorities concerned kindly to consider the above points for improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the management of the Sangai Festival this year . God luck and good wishes to all concerned?

* Dr Khomdon Lisam wrote this article for The Sangai Express and Hueiyen Lanpao
This article was posted on November 03, 2015.

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