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Archive for the ‘Events and Festivals’ Category

Newspaper report says ‘the budget for organising Sangai Festivel 2017 was Rs. 7 (seven) crores’. Since the amount spent for the festival was huge and the fund was allocated from public money, it does make sense for any Indian citizen to ask the simple query – ‘Is Rs. 7 crores worth spending on the Sangai festival annually, and what does Manipur’s public gain or lose by having the festival?’ The best approach to answer this question is through having ‘a Sangai Festival Impact Study (SFI) framework tool’ that provides an objective and scientific analysis of the impact of each edition of the Sangai Festival. This approach will ensure every Indian citizen (esp. a Manipuri resident) to have a holistic perspective on the purpose of having the ‘Sangai Festival’ without the influence of any ‘political rhetoric’ and ‘biased views’ (which may been created because of the interests of few personals or groups associated with organizing the festival).

SangaiFestival_2017

As a baseline, analysis of the impact study can be done under two scenarios – ‘with the festival’ and ‘without the festival’. In simple terms, these two scenarios means ‘Where could have we spent that Rs. 7 crores in case we didn’t have the festival and still achieve similar/better outcomes for Manipur’s public by having another project/programme instead?’ or ‘How best was Rs. 7 crores spent by conducting which specific activities as part of the festival, and how far those activities enabled realizing the essential impact factors as envisaged under overall objectives of having the festival?’. The word ‘tourism’, as per the Oxford’s English Dictionary, means ‘the commercial organization and operation of holidays and visits to places of interest’, and the specialized agency of the United Nations ‘World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) professes the simple definition of ‘sustainable tourism’ as ‘the tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities’. These two meanings highlight that tourism involves ‘management of certain activities involving money in a commercial setting’ and tourism activities ought to be made ‘sustainable’ for long term benefits especially for the local community’.

Compared to last editions of the Sangai Festival, there are few changes in the approach of how the Sangai Festival 2017 was organized, such as ‘new events at more venues (incl. those outside the usual venues within the Imphal municipal areas)’, ‘The SangaiRun to promote Loktak Lake and the Keibul Lamjao National Park’, ‘efficient usage of promotional means (incl. YouTube videos, dedicated websites, online ticketing system, publication on national print media, discussion on radio as well as TV showrooms, special invites to national and international delegates), ‘having the North East Development Summit at Imphal during the Sangai festival period and inviting the Hon’ble President of India to open the Summit’s ceremony’. It was laudable gesture that Her Excellency ‘the Governor of Manipur’ also adorned dress costumes of various ethnic groups in Manipur on various Sangai Festival events and hold heartedly championed those events. Visitors from outside Manipur (nationally and internationally) and local visitors to the event venues gave positive feedbacks about the activities of the Sangai Festival 2017 as well as possible improvements to the festival in future and limitations of the current 2017 festival. At the closing phase of the 2017 festival, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Manipur also made an announcement regarding the intent of including more venues located in hill districts in the next Sangai Festival 2018 (such as cherry blossoms and flower festivals of Mao in Senapati district).

The Manipur State Government ought to engage a consultancy firm/institution that specializes in delivering impact studies of major projects/programmes by deploying economic and social research methodologies. Similar examples of such impact study report can be availed by searching ‘Olympic Games Impact Study’ on ‘Google Search engine’ (e.g. Pre-Games Report and Post-Games Report from the Economic & Social Research Council, UK). Such impact study report shows ingredients of what an impact study framework tool comprises. For a sustainable Tourism in Manipur, the Sangai Festival Impact Study (SFI) framework tool ought to be developed by identifying ‘pre-defined impact indicators’ spread across three internationally recognized areas of sustainable development – economic, socio-cultural and environmental. These indicators can be categorized into mandatory and optional, and each indicator ought to have a context (i.e. the area/topic of measurement) and an event indicator (i.e. the trigger / measuring factor). The period to be considered for measuring impact can be of three phases: Pre-Event (maybe covering ‘1 to 6’ months prior to the particular Sangai Festival), During-the-Event, and the Post-Event (maybe covering ‘1 to 6’ months after the particular Sangai Festival), and the duration of each phase may be considered appropriately.

Few possible indicators of the SFI under the economic agenda may be ‘employment by economic activity related to the festival’, ‘Tourist stay in private guest houses, and accommodation occupancy rate in local hotels’, ‘traffic at airport and bus/taxi terminals’, ‘size and number of not-for-profit/companies involved in the festival’, ‘nature of public spending during the festival and debts/expenses incurred by the State Government as part of the festival’, and ‘income earning of local people (incl. Emas/mothers at Keithels/markets) and those in the non-organized sectors’. Possible indicators of the SFI under the environment agenda may be ‘vehicle air pollution and surge of vehicle traffic due to the festival’, ‘solid waste disposal and public hygiene quality’, ‘utilization of local community and private resources (incl. ‘community halls, or equipment for meetings or leisure centers’ for a hiring fee)’, ‘utilization of Government owned public resources (incl. vehicles, auditoriums)’. The Socio-cultural agenda for the SFI may include indicators such as ‘poverty and social upliftment because of the festival’, ‘crime rates during the festival’, ‘volunteers to the festival’, ‘opinion polls on the festival’, ‘participation of local, national and foreign tourists’. Such indicators can be pre-designed for the current Sangai Festival and be improved (i.e. deleted/inserted) based on inputs from future festivals. By having a scoring system which is factually based on relevant data, we can have a holistic perspective of whether a particular Sangai Festival has been successful and up to what extent it has achieved the intended target points on each pre-defined indicator.

The Sangai Festival ought to bring about sustainable socio-economic development for the people of Manipur (esp. bringing positive impact to those at the bottom of the Pyramid in terms of economic parity and social inclusion). Infrastructures created as part of the Sangai Festival ought to be of multipurpose utility beyond the festival period by public and the event venues may be planned across various districts of Manipur State so as to leave behind valuable infrastructures for the local communities after the conclusion of the Sangai Festival of a particular year. This approach will support the socio-economic development agenda of the State Government, in addition to the intended tourism development agenda through the Sangai Festival. The Sangai Festival ought to have provisions of including the possible services of local population (i.e. private individuals as well as local clubs) so as to bring about socio-economic benefits to the local community in addition to those officially sub-contracted business people and corporate firms for the Sangai Festival. Active participation of local transport associations (of buses, wingers, auto-rickshaws) and private tour operators (incl. event organizers of various cultural and sports activities) ought to be provisioned in the plan for the Sangai Festival so that the ultimate benefits will be passed on to the public at large instead of few contractors associated to the Sangai Festival. What really is essential regarding the hoisting of such ‘Sangai Festival’ is to have an absolute clarity of ‘what the overall objectives are and the extent of festival’s scope’, because it is not a common sense approach to spend the large sum of Rs 7 crores to entertain ourselves for few days at the opportunity cost of investing the same amount on other valuable ventures such as ‘creating new coal-tarred roads, or new hospitals, or new school/college buildings, or new local micro-financing funds for uplifting poverty at villages’.

Indeed, the Sangai Festival can act as the platform for Manipuris (currently residing within Manipur and at various global cities) to get together and contribute towards the socio-economic development of the villages (and local communities) within Manipur, if we appropriately plan and execute the festival with a clear purpose to justify all possible opportunity costs. Otherwise, the festival will better serve the interest of few contractors and government officials (incl. ministers/MLAs) as compared to public at large in Manipur. Thus, it is essential that the state government creates an effective ‘Sangai Festival Impact Study (SFI)’ framework tool sooner than later so that there is clarity and transparency in the purpose of conducting the annual Sangai Festival by spending large sum of public money which could been spent on other relevant projects for the people of Manipur.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA, LLM) is an Innovation Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/MSMEs in Manipur. For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

 

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Manipur State Govt firmly believes that promoting tourism into Manipur can bring about socio-economic development of the state. The Central Govt (esp. Ministry of tourism, and North Eastern Council under Ministry of Development of North Eastern Regions) has been also supporting the State Govt by providing huge funding assistance for tourism related projects. Main activity on this regard is to organise annual tourism festival titled ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ in the month of November (21-30). sangai-loktak-articleThe expenditure for 2014 event was about Rs 2.5-3.0 crores and the cost of 2015 event may be Rs. 3.0-5.0 crores. Since large sum of public money (collected through taxes) has been spent for conducting this festival by the State Govt, it is appropriate to ask and rather be made a mandatory task for State Govt to evaluate economic appraisal of the festival project along with a social impact analysis. Such an evaluation report must be produced by the State Govt as ‘white paper’ periodically to access ‘pros and cons / impact’ of every Manipur Sangai Festival being conducted.

Any course of discussion on ‘whether current format of the festival is appropriate and what programs should be added/removed, or there is another possible way of conducting the festival in an entirely different approach’ ought to be guided by the basic principle that “Manipur Sangai Festival has been devised to promote Manipur globally for its tourism potentials and by doing so, bring about socio-economic development to the local population within Manipur State”. Also, we need to be clear with our adopted strategy on this festival – ‘Is the spending on the Manipur Sangai Festival an investment or just mere expenditure; i.e. are we creating a sustainable capacity building system for the local economy, or are we just enjoying ourselves by spending huge sum of money for few days in the name of tourism promotion?’. This article rather focuses on an alternative way of conducting the festival than being a critic to the current festival format.

There is an analogy topic that we can correlate to: ‘how Olympic Games are conducted in various countries on rotation, or how National Games are conducted in various states of India on rotation’. The host country for Olympic Games (or the host state for National Games in India) aims to make the maximum benefits from having the sports event in their country (or their state, in case of National Games) through creating new infrastructures (e.g. roads, bridges, markets, houses, water/electricity/gas supply facilities), new engagement frameworks (e.g. coordination among various ministries of the Govt for public order and utility services supply, involving public and private organizations, including students and staffs from schools/universities, sharing public support tasks with local municipal bodies), and new promotional means (e.g. extensive marketing to increase visits by tourists during the sports event and also later on for the following months/years). Thus, there are always some diverse options in every planning on where/how to spend a huge sum of money for executing a big event. Our focus for Manipur Sangai Festival also ought to think from this perspective of ‘How best is the way to spend the allocated budget for the festival (e.g. Rs. 5 Crores) into what activities for short term and long term gains to people and land of Manipur?’

The name ‘Sangai’ has been chosen to represent the annual Manipur tourism festival by the State Govt; maybe because this title has global appeal due to the relevance of endangered ‘Sangai’ species to global audience. How about we try to imagine this scenario for the sake of analysis – What if ‘we choose to conduct this Manipur tourism festival with special focus around the villages/towns where this special deer is located (i.e. those around Keibul Lamjao National Park and Loktak Lake)’!

Often, there is this query of ‘Should development come first, or should security (i.e. better law and order) come first before anything else (including tourism activities)?’ In addition to just conducting a tourism festival to promote tourism potential, Manipur State Govt has the duty to develop infrastructure and enhance living standard of villages/towns within Manipur. So, how about hitting two targets with just one arrow? – By planning the Manipur Sangai Festival around villages/towns of Keibul Lamjao and Loktak Lake; such as, by having more event venues, involving local people/organisations, delegating tasks to staffs at Govt offices (schools/colleges and other Govt departments) and administrative officials at various sub-divisions/gram-panchayats, and a series of well-created programs in those villages/towns.

The tourism festival ought to be more of people’s event rather than just being an event for ministers and higher officials of the State Govt. There is no ‘actual high risks of security’ scenario for having tourism programs and event venues in villages/towns around Loktak Lake and Keibul Lamjao, and rather it may be just a myth that there is no security outside the state capital; or, maybe it is just a sign of being laziness for ministers and higher officials of the State Govt to visit places outside the Imphal Municipal Council areas. Since the ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ is for promoting tourism potentials of the whole state, tourism events can be still conducted at those already chosen venues of the Imphal Municipal areas; yet the central focus can be given to “villages/towns around Sangai’s home”. Such an approach will facilitate in (1) creating new businesses by private entrepreneurs in these villages/towns, (2) providing better roads and modern utility services (electricity, water, medical) which have been neglected for years, (3) exchanging of ideas and modern knowhow between people of city and villages/towns. In due course of time, we can see villages/towns (such as Thanga, Ithing, Karang, Moirang, Moirang Khunou, Kairenphabi, Kumbi, Ithai, Wangu, Nongmaikhong, Khordak, Tera Khunou, Laphupat, Phoubachao, Komlakhong, Uchiwa, Mayang Imphal, Toubul, Kwashiphai, Nachou, Bishenpur, Oinam, Nambol, Yaingangpokpi, Wangoi, Tentha, Wabagai, Hiyanglam, Ningthoukhong) developing in a faster pace on par with Imphal Municipal areas.

Various independent events being conducted in Manipur till date can be included as special programs to the list of programs in the ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ for the benefit of local people of villages/towns around Loktak Lake and Keibul Lamjao (rather than facilitating profit earnings to few individuals who owns large restaurants or hotels or tour operators); such as Fish sales festival, Pineapple sales festival, Handicraft/Handloom product sales festival, sports festival, Save Loktak event, Save Sangai Event, Food festival. Tour routes to enjoy such variety of mini-festival events during the ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ can be created through these villages/towns for local tourists as well as national and international tourists. Various developmental schemes of the State Govt and Central Govt can be redirected towards organizing ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ in these villages/towns under advanced and proper coordinated planning; such as (1) development of roads and cleanliness drive by villagers/NGOs through NREGA (Mahatama Gandhi National Rural Employment Gurantee Act), (2) various development funds under Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, and Department of MAHUD (Municipal Administration, Housing & Urban Development), (3) enterprise support funds from central ministry of MSME (micro, small and medium enterprises) and Department of Commerce & Industry, (4) promotion of local culture under Department of Art and Culture, (5) developing of local agribusinesses under Department of Agriculture, and Department of Fisheries, (6) preserving ecology and biodiversity under Department of Forest and Environment.

If we conduct ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ in such an approach, percentage of having more inclusive participation from public (individuals and organisations) may be higher. Benefits out of the annual tourism festival are likely to be more sustainable, and a long lasting social impact may be delivered to the local population and land within Manipur state. Thus, we need to explore other ways of conducting Tourism festivals that make the best usage of available financial and manpower resources.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at Leicester (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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A recently published news article about ‘Manipur Sangai Festival 2012’ reads as:

“The festival has been organized with a total cost of Rs 2 crore – Rs 1.50 crore from the Ministry of Tourism, GOI and Rs 50 lakhs from the state government. Construction of the stalls for the festival which will have 500 stalls will be handled by the Directorate of Commerce and Industries for which Rs 30 lakhs have been allotted. Rs 30 lakhs have been allotted to the Arts and Culture department for the preparation of the cultural programmes, while Rs 5 lakhs have been sanctioned for the Youth Affairs and Sports department, the Manipur Mountaineering and Trekking Association has been allotted with Rs 25 lakhs for the adventure sports, informed sources.”

If the state government is willing to invest (or say ‘spend’ instead, because of little visible Returns On Investment) a whopping ‘2 crores’ on conducting ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ to promote tourism in Manipur and attract tourist visits to Manipur, why state government does not seriously consider organizing ‘Global Manipuris Summit’ annually (as a semi-professional event, similar to Pravashi Bharatiya Divas) to connect to Manipuris residing nationally and internationally for socio-economic development of Manipur state through their contributions back to the motherland.

Tourism itself doesn’t do anything but the associated services/products created around tourism sector benefits or affects people and places. The World Tourism Organization defines tourists as people “traveling to and staying in places outside their usual environment for not more than one consecutive year for leisure, business and other purposes”. Though tourism promotion incurs a cost, we also ought to consider the opportunity cost (i.e. the cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action) for having those tourism promotion activities. Thus, promoting tourism or growth of tourism ought to refer to something concrete out of tourism sector having an impact on the associated services/products in other relevant industries.

State govt should be able to answer ‘what actually determines the success or failure of conducting Manipur Sangai Festival’. Is it just about celebrating few days by showcasing few cultural and adventurous programs by incurring a heavy cost (e.g. 2 crores for 2012 event)? If only local people in Manipur comprises major % of consumers attending in the event, does the money spent for conducting the event justified? Who exactly are the target consumers for the event (e.g. other Indian state nationals, or foreign nationals) and how effective are the various marketing channels used to attract these consumer segments (i.e. contractors/partners used for the event)? How many local businesses benefits from the visit of tourists (local or national or foreign) during the event and what is the incremental economic impact in the following year after this year’s event because of increase in customers/tourists visit in Manipur? Are major % of tourists spending only at Imphal market places and how much % of tourists visits far-flung locations (in other districts of Manipur) making a spending to local businesses therein? Thus, state govt ought to have an ‘Impact Analysis framework’ by identifying relevant KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) prior to conducting the event and measuring result against the pre-indentified performance metrics. This would give a clear understanding to judge if we’ve made an effective and efficient usage of the allocated money. Thus, unless we can show that local businesses and people (not just in central Imphal municipal areas but also in other valley and hill districts areas) are benefited in some ways out of the ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’ and proven via statistical data, we ought to introspect other new ways of tourism promotion approach to cause socio-economic impact in Manipur state.

Going by the definition of ‘Tourists’, it may not be improper to consider thousands of Manipuris already working/migrated to various cities of India and foreign countries as ‘Tourists’ intending to visit Manipur state occasionally every year. In addition, thousands of Manipuri students studying outside Manipur may be also considered as ‘Tourists’ in the sense that they visit once or twice back home in Manipur annually for few days of holiday breaks and they spend money buying some services from local businesses during their stay in Manipur state. Moreover, these consumers are almost ‘Confirmed tourists’ who’ve the most likeliness to visit Manipur state as compared to other tourist categories, since being Manipuris they have got a purpose to make a visit and spend their money while in Manipur state. It may be harder to ask a non-Manipuri or foreigner to visit Manipur state as compared to asking a Manipur origin. Going by the actual volume of Manipuri tourists visiting Manipur annually from outside the state (within India) and from foreign countries, the number of Manipuri tourists may be in the order of lacs thereby contributing in few crore Rupees to the state economy annually. Thus, it also makes a common sense to focus on ‘Manipuri Tourists’ (from outside the Manipur state and abroad) as one of the key potential consumer segments while planning for any tourism festivals and events of Manipur (thereby catering to what these consumers may like as their holiday-break options).

Considering overall socio-economic development in Manipur state, state govt needs help more from people and private firms (apart of using its own govt officials and resources) to rejuvenate the current situation for a positive change. State govt has been facing difficulties to attract national/foreign companies to invest in Manipur due to law and order situations. Also, entry of non-local companies and professionals may cause unseen socio-cultural impacts to local communities in Manipur. Moreover, it is hard to evaluate long term benefits of having those non-local entities since there is the tendency for non-local companies to take away profits earned elsewhere to their own pockets and native localities. Thus, Manipur state would need to groom local firms to grow ready enough to compete on national/global markets and still embed Manipuri ethics and culture within these organizations.

Since last 2 decades (90s and 00s), Manipur state has had export of its high-skilled manpower to other states of India and abroad due to lack of opportunities and unhealthy social security conditions in Manipur. These Manipuris have mostly migrated and settled with a job and family in those locations with a bleak intention of returning back to Manipur. Also, the next Manipuri generations are going to be exported similarly (right after their 10th or 12th standards of education) outside Manipur state with no choice to return back in the coming two decades (say 2030 or so). Thus, fate of Manipur state is likely to go from bad to worse considering that potential pillars of the future are already migrating away in search of better prospects and leaving behind a huge generation gap of 40years (i.e. 1990-2030) to take care of Manipur. Unless state govt seriously consider a long term strategy right now to reconnect to those lacs of Manipuris already migrated to other states of India and foreign countries, Manipur state is going to face a huge crunch of high caliber manpower resources and passionate industrialists/professionals wishing to develop Manipur state in future.

Realizing the importance of maintaining ‘India’ brand globally and getting tremendous contributions from NRIs/PIOs (as investors to India and lobby groups for India in foreign countries), central Indian govt has been conducting ‘Pravashi Bharatiya Divas’ (PBD) annually from 7-9 January by welcoming Overseas Indians for a semi-professional gathering since 2003. Similarly, it is need of the hour for Manipur state govt to consider conducting ‘Global Manipuris Summit’ annually similar to PBD focusing on socio-economic development of entire villages/towns within Manipur state through active contribution of Overseas Manipuris and Manipuris already migrated to other Indian states. Such a global Manipuris focus festival is not just intended for socio-economic development but also for tourism growth in Manipur (if compared to ‘Manipur Sangai Festival’).

Interestingly, few pioneers among Overseas Manipuris has already initiated actively engaging with Manipur state govt after their attendance to PBD 2011 to create a global Manipuris platform focused on socio-economic development of Manipur by integrating with activities of state govt ministries and though support of relevant officials in each industry sector. An initiative named ‘KEN-Manipur’ has been spearheaded by overseas Manipuris (with support from few self-dedicated state govt officials) to create a Knowledge Exchange Network (KEN) that links every Manipuri professionals living across the globe in various industry sectors and plugging into the network of Manipur state govt officials in each department/ministry. State-wide socio-economic development and integrity of Manipur among various ethnic communities can be expedited in a short span of 5yrs or so, if state govt enables the flow of best brains and personal money back to Manipur state by allowing engagement among local and non-local Manipuris through such KEN approach. Also, organizing annual ‘Global Manipuris Summit’ in Manipur just after PBD event in January (similar to ‘Manipur Sangai Festival) will allow Overseas Manipuris to attend both the events while visiting India from abroad. Thus, the real onus lies now in the hands of Manipur state govt to consider the prospect of connecting to Manipuris outside the state SERIOUSLY as HIGH PRIORITY with a STRATEGIC PURPOSE.

About the Author:

Shanjoy Mairembam (BEng, MBA) is a Business Strategy Consultant based at London (UK). He supports mentoring of young entrepreneurs in ‘conceptualization of ideas into business case’, and offers role of a ‘Business Doctor’ to local NGOs/SMEs in Manipur.

For further info, visit http://www.shanmaiconsulting.com; E-mail: shanjoym (at) gmail (dot) com

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