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Growing number of winter festivals in the past few years has made Northeast’s place in the global tourism map more distinct. It is during these festivals when a host of new places of attraction are introduced to the visitors. These visitors further bring others next time, boosting sectors like hospitality, transport and many allied sectors including agriculture and horticulture. Although several features of these festivals like music, dance, fair etc., are same everywhere, there are distinct aspects as well. The festival going to be held at Mawphlang near Shillong is to promote indigenous food or rather ‘slow food’. This concept has been attracting tourists from across the world to the festival. The government, for the first time, has mooted a rice festival at Markasa in West Khasi Hills district. The venue is because of the number of indigenous varieties of rice produced in the area. It may not boost tourism directly, but it is surely a morale booster for the marginal farmers. This is an opportunity to make them realise their worth to the state and even the nation. Then there is Simsang festival at Williamnagar, a town which comes to news mostly when something goes wrong in the militancy-ravaged East Garo Hills district. Very often we come across lines such as “…. killed … at … kilometres away from Williamnagar” in newspaper reports. The festival is expected to make a little bit of difference to the situation. The festive mood in Garo Hills starts with the annual Wangala dance, the biggest festival of the region. Another in the offing is Ahaia for which the authorities have made elaborate arrangements.

All these are ways of opening up the region to the outside world. There is no escape from being open to the planet where things are moving very fast. The north-eastern part of the country is lagging behind by decades, thanks to the problem of insurgency rooted in the multiple ethnicity of the region. However, on a different note, the backwardness has protected our natural resources from being overexploited. The Northeast is still one of the biggest bio-diversity hotspots of south-east Asian region. The world of environment conscious people, which is getting bigger every day, has paid a lot of attention to this region. Tourism festivals where efforts are made to ensure maximum publicity have played a great role in exposing the region to this non-harmful people. They come, enjoy, pay for services, and leave without taking away anything except for sweet memories. It will take a little more time for the “race-concerned” people to understand the value of this sector. But, anyway, that time will come, surely.

(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on November 29, 2013)

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