TODAY -

Tourism development in Manipur; but for whom?

Jinine Lai *

Trickle Down Economics



There have been loud noises for about 30 years that tourism and its associate activities in Manipur will bring benefits to the peoples and will cause economic development in the state. However, negative contents of the propaganda are so harmfully harsh.

The discrimination on - Loktak Lake, the Naga River Colony and villages around Imphal airport; the land grabbing for golf-course and hotel management buildings around Nongmaizingching; the challenges in Shirui hill and Khuga dam are the some existing realities.

Interesting theory of "Trickle Down Economics" is glorified in the Manipur Tourism Policy 2014 attempting to convince and fool the peoples. The system, how we are told is that it will benefit many of us; first the benefits are being poured to the pockets of the few who are on the top, and filled theirs first then eventually small overflow will trickle down to the lowers.

The privatization of Sendra Tourist Home, operation of motorboat service in the Loktak and erection cable car over ThangaKarangwill share economic benefit with community, is mere elaborated charade. The intention of such plan is good for nothing but design to remain confining the wealth churning activities to the domain of those wealthy few.

It generally robs the community of their resources and deteriorates natural environment. Even in the sector of home stay which appears a good participation of the locals in receiving benefits is not so, since the middle men, tourist agents hijack the lion share of the business. The absence of fair regulations from the government only helps the privates to keep the economic opportunity of the locals in the distance.

Land Grab: Towards developing tourism infrastructure, state is bulldozing the vulnerable population, ceasing livelihood, robbing the small plot of land fromthe families who never able to escape from the grinding poverty; and handling over to the rich who are capable of building five star hotels. On 20 May 2013 about 500 residents who had inhabited for decades on the 1.5 acre land of Kabo Leikai/ Naga River Colony, Imphal were evicted to clear land for construction of a five-star hotel. The demolition work uprooted about 35 houses; 144 school going children affected, 2 residents died and 1 woman gone insane.

Expansion project - usually airports are paved and enclosed in good distances away from residential area. In the whole world, Imphal Tulihal Airport is the closest one to the crowded capital town. Government could have shifted this dislocated airport from Imphal to an appropriate space, instead it is being expanded causing dislocation to the thousands of people. In this case - on 28 September 2014, an eviction order was served against 60 families who cannot afford relocation.

The order threatened the families to quit their homesteads within a week time. The traumatized 120 households of Ningombam AwangLeikai and Ningombam Atom Leikai, Imphal West district were waiting for implementation of assurances promised by the government of Manipur in multiple occasions. About 60 households who were tired of waiting for the government response have already shifted to other places in their own initiatives. After having acquired 700 acres of land since early 2011 for the expansion, the government again notified to acquire another 116 acres from the surrounding area.

Loktak Hot-spot Burn: Implementing the Loktak Protection Act 2006, a Manipur Government agent, Loktak Development Authority (LDA) using state police forces has burnt and demolished over 500 huts rendering more than 3000 members of fisher communities homeless. The demolition project and Phum (floating biomass) clearing mission reported used up 374 cores of Rupees funded by Planning Commission through a controversial pipeline called mystical K-Pro.

Such action of state exhibits a glare unintelligible dedication and self-contradiction simply because they destroy the Phum and the huts, at the same time they imply the Phums, the huts are the natural beauty and values of the lake which benefits to attract tourists. Authority earmark amount of 40,000 Rupees each towards compensating some victims which is only meagre to their lost that will stretch to long term suffering.

Now, the challenge is being aggravated with the coming of Modi's government - developmental enthusiast. The dilutions of legislations regarding the Environmental Protection, Forest Rights and Land Acquisition are on. The amendment of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 gives the Government enormous powers to acquire land without the landholders' and Gram Sabha consent for projects involving defense, industrial corridors and infrastructure projects including those taken up under Public-Private Partnership (PPP) mode.

Though it sounds distance away, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples its Articles 10, 21, 23, 26, 27, 28 and 30 aspire - rights not to be evicted forcibly, not to be discriminated; right to participation, prioritize, strategise the development; right to free, prior, informed, consent; right to the land and resources; right to preserve and protect the environment, right to proper remedies, and free from militarization.

Also Global Code of Ethics for Tourism (GCET) is a set of principles designed to guide key- players in tourism development towards a responsible and sustainable direction. Addressing to governments, the travel industry, communities and tourists alike, it aims to help maximize the sector's benefits while minimizing its potentially negative impact on the environment, cultural heritage and societies across the globe.

Again, tourism and its associated undertaking will take the advantage of prolong militarization in Manipur, imposition of draconian military legislation - AFSPA and the strong impunity that has allowed perpetrators get scot-free always. The fear is, in the name of protection of tourists and keeping the business in an environment of good law and order, the deployment of security forces in about 350 military stations will remain.


* Jinine Lai wrote this article for e-pao.net
The author is Assistant Professor, International Education Dept, University of Suwon and can be contacted at lcjinine(aT)gmail(doT)com
This article was posted on October 25, 2015.


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