“No more tourism festivals please”

The day was September 27, Tourism Day was to be observed at Mapao Zingsho village. The villagers were enthusiastic as the Chief Minister along with the Deputy Chief minister were to arrive at the village for the first time for the state level festival. Organizers had told that a crowd of at least 5000 could be expected.

Grace, 47, a widow had bought a carton of eggs at Rs 1080. She had hard boiled them to sell to the expected crowd. By the time evening entertainment program ended at around 5.30 pm, Grace had sold two hard boiled eggs at Rs 20. She was among those who did not risk to invest too much in food stalls, but she had invested as much as she could afford. She lives with her only son and she regrets making the decision to buy the carton of eggs.

Alum, Akhan and Achan had foraged the hills for three days to gather orchids. They had set up a stall near the village road entrance, they sold one orchid plant. That was also bought by one police officer who had come on security detail for the Chief Minister.

Angam  ZV, a villager had also bought a pig on a partnership with his brother in law. The pig cost Rs 33,000 and weighed more than a 100 kilograms. They had forked up Rs 16,500 each, at the end of the day, they got back Rs 7,000 from sales. The rest of the meat was spoiled.

Nobelson had opened an eatery at his residence also. He had cooked pork, chicken, beef, dal and prepared 10 pots of rice meant to feed the expected 5000 strong crowd. He had invested Rs 70,000, he got back 4000 Rs at the end of the day.

Altogether, 45 stalls were opened by villagers of Mapao Zingsho and now, they are left with only similar stories of bankruptcy. Many still cry at their plight as they had tried their best to entertain and play host to the visitors. Many are now in debt. The Tourism Day observance as organized by the state Tourism department has been a nightmare for many families of the villager who are mostly on a hand to mouth basis.

The major complaint raised by the villagers is that there was no publicity for the festival. Due to the lack of advertisement and the proper location of the Mapao Zingsho village not made clear, there was a feeble turnout of visitors. The official program, which the Chief Minister attended, was conducted splendidly with proper reception and cultural shows from the villagers. However, at the end of the day, the 45 odd stalls which had invested and worked hard to accommodate and satisfy the expected crowd were left high and dry. The very mention of the festival is anathema to those who are in financial debt.

Sam Ng, who opened a fast food stall that day told IFP, “ The turnout was opposite to our expectation, there was negligible advertisement, it has hurt economically as we had prepared for a 5000 strong crowd, we have taken loans also,” Sam added that he invested Rs 30,000 and got back approximately 2,000 Rs from sales.

It may be mentioned that the Tourism department had held the festival for one day only at a cost of Rs 10 lacs. The rental charges of sound, stage, musicians and other arrangements being paid, there has been no complaint, except for many households of Mapao Zingsho village who had lost a similar amount in preparation of welcoming others to their village. It was learnt that the event management was contracted to some individuals who are closely connected with the Tourism department. The only advertisement for the festival was made in a local daily on the very day of the event.

Sangreiwon, another widow of the village was in tears at the conclusion of the day. She had borrowed Rs. 10,000 Rs and invested another 15,000 from her savings. The education of her 3 children is at peril as the bills cannot be met.

The families who are in financial problems have requested the Tourism department to introspect where things went wrong.

Originally published in Imphal Free Press. Featured image source

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Paojel Chaoba Written by:

Paojel Chaoba is a journalist with Imphal Free Press

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