TODAY -

A Look at Sangai Festival 2018: Turning into a Mela ?

Gurumayum Bidyasagar Sharma *

Inaugural Day of annual Manipur Sangai Festival at BOAT, Imphal :: November 21 2018
Inaugural Day of annual Manipur Sangai Festival at BOAT, Imphal on November 21 2018 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam



The eleventh edition of Manipur Sangai Festival was inaugurated recently by Defence Minister of Govt. of India on 21st November. The origin of this festival can be traced back to the Tourism Festival that were celebrated a couple of years prior to its rechristening as Sangai Festival in 2010.

The earlier version of the festival (the first one I visited) was in Bir Tikendrajit Park. It was not spacious enough to accommodate the huge number of visitors and also it was a security nightmare. But the worst part was the cramped up parking spaces and public restrooms.

But a lot has changed since then. The venue has been shifted to the present main venue of Hapta Kangjeibung, the festival has been extended to different parts of Manipur. A Location at Loktak Lake, Lamboi Khongnangkhong, & a new one at Mao has been some of the changes in the main structure of this "mega festival". To be very fair this has been some of the positive changes with the festival.

However, the main questions that need to be asked here I whether the expenditure on this festival, which was 7 crores in 2017 and reportedly 9 crores in 2018, is worth the result that the state has got in the past years? Or are we supposed to take this as an investment, the necessary loss before we get the desired result? If that is the case than how long are we supposed to continue this expenditure before we start moving anywhere closer to the aims that the state has set upfront?

Sangai Festival was supposed to be a festival promoting tourism & protection of Sangai to name a few among other purpose. The festival was supposed to aim at attracting tourist from other states of India and also from other nations. Taking such things into account isn't it being a responsible citizen's rightful duty to ask the Government how much income has been generated from tourism related activities in the last couple of years and also whether the increased number of tourist has been at par with the expected increased?

The amount of public money spend on the festival has been mainly on construction of temporary fair sites, stalls, cultural programs and many other activities which has been considered as the main attraction of the festival. However the majority of the people visiting the Sangai Festival are local people from whom certain amount are charged for entry.

And the food court inside the fair charge the customer much more than the actual price of the food served (mainly because they have to recover the amount they spent to get a stall in there), the handicrafts product that are sold inside the fair are not even at fair price, they are much higher than at the market.

So what really is happening is "spending your hard money to visit a fair which is organized using your money, where you will be charged more than double for anything that you do, which can also be done much cheaper outside". This is not a tourism festival anymore. This is becoming more like one of those "Melas" that keep coming every year with lots of fun activities (but hey atleast they got Ferris wheel!!!).

In my humble opinion, the festival will make a lot more sense if we used the public fund to develop the major tourist sites in the state, like Keibul Lamjao this year, Cherry Blossoms Park in Mao next, Siroy Hill the next and so on.

The state need to understand that Manipur being very mountainous regions, adventure tourism should be one of the major areas where people should focus upon. Government could set up adventure theme park that works round the year and organized adventurous activities round the year. Bunzee Jumping, paragliding, hang gliding, white water rafting, canoeing, kayaking, paragliding, abseiling and the list goes on.

There is so much potential in this sector which the government has failed to tap in the past years. It would be a nice change of pace for the Government to change the way the Sangai Festival is organized. The way it is organized at present wouldn't be able to bring a lot of changes to the amount of visitors from other states and country to Manipur.

Some changes that can be brought about in the festival are:
o Focus on developing one tourist site every year to certain standard. Cherry blossoms park in Mao, Caving/spelunking in Tamenglong etc.
o Developing Adventure theme park with varieties of activities round the year. Abseiling, paragliding, white water rafting, parasailing, water sports in Loktak etc.
o Focusing on increasing social media presence. Instagram, Facebook, YouTube & Twitter ads and post for attracting tourist from other places.
o Advertisement for Sangai Festival on National Television, magazines and travel shows to promote the festival.
o Ads should come up well in advance like a month or two before the festival. Hornbill festival's ad can be seen as early as September!!!! While ours comes up on first week of November.

These are just some of the ideas that have been with me for some time. The major concern here is that the public fund that are used to organize the festival has not been able to bring a lot of returns for the amount that we have spent on the festival for the last ten years & more.

The government needs to adopt a new strategy to attract more tourists to the state if the old ways are not working. They need to adapt to the change otherwise we will be left further behind than the others in this sector too. The major tourist attractions in Manipur has not been developed and showcased for other people to consider it worth a visit. The ads for Sangai Festival shouldn't only come up on Impact TV and ISTV, but main focus should be on national TV channels.

If we continue with this mode of organizing this festival, than some years down the line this festival will become more of a "Mela" than a tourism festival.


* Gurumayum Bidyasagar Sharma wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at gbidya(DOT)unipune(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was posted on 26 November , 2018 .


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