JOY ROY CHOUDHURY – Kolkata
In a major development, the union railway ministry has announced a slew of new initiatives to connect north-east with other parts of the country. Pawan Kumar Bansal, Union Railway Minister in his maiden Railway Budget speech for the financial year 2013-14 said, “For the first time the State of Arunachal Pradesh has been brought into the rail network and the Railways will commission the Harmuti-Naharlagun line this year.”
Bansal also informed that work on the new line railway project to connect state of Manipur are in full swing. The minister said the gauge conversion work on Lumding-Silchar and Rangia-Murkongselek is on fast track. Rail connectivity to these north-eastern states will provide a major boost to trade and commerce and tourism sector of the state. The union tourism ministry has accorded top-most priority to promote tourism in the north-eastern region and taken up series of initiatives to increase the flow of both domestic and foreign tourists. It is expecting a quantum jump in tourist arrivals to the north-east in the next few years.
Commenting on the latest development, a senior executive committee member of ADTOI, West Bengal and North-East Chapter, on condition of anonymity said, “Till date north east India has only been promoted with only few conventional seasonal destinations in the domestic market and the region has not been properly marketed due to lack of awareness about the different circuits and connectivity problems. That is the reason why 80 per cent of the destinations of the region are still unexplored.” He said that with the bringing in of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur within the Indian railway network there will be more focused activities in terms of tourism promotion and development. Domestic as well as foreign tourists can now travel upto the far end of the country in Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur and visit the exotic locations in these region, he added.