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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tulihal International Airport and Passport Office soon

~By Yochanan Phaltual

Manipur earned the epithet “Switzerland of India” from the Governor-General of British India, Lord Irwin (1926-1931) and the small state is call as the “Jewel of India” by the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru (1947-1964). The local native proudly calls their mother land as “Shana Leibak-Land of Gold”. After decades and years of tarnished image due to various reasons Manipur once again try to regain the lost prestige name.

Manipur is the gateway to Southeast Asia under the flagship policy of India’s “Look East Policy”. Huge potential of natural beauty for tourism, exotic wildlife (the famous Sangai deer), floating islands (Phumdi), Loktak (the largest fresh water lake “Loktak” in northeast India), exotic flower (Siroy Lily), the beautiful and serene tribal villages and the warmhearted locals were just a tip of the iceberg. The state could also tape the huge investment potential from Non-Residential Indians (NRIs) and financial institutions to help the economy of Manipur.

Imphal Tulihal International Airpot - Manipur
Last month, from 21 till 30 November, Manipur celebrated the Sangai Tourism Festival. Manipur is determined to hardsell their tourism potentials to the outside world. Ten days of cultural sublimation, musical concert and cultural extravaganza, sporting competitions (the popular international Pony-polo/sagol kangjei, originated from Manipur) and savory delicacies of all types and taste of peculiar Manipur cuisines marked the festival.

However, from a report of my friend from Nagaland visiting Manipur for the festival there is some drawbacks as far as choosing the venue is concerned. Sangai festival is annually held at Hapta Kangjeibung which is within the city boundary which causes big traffic problems. With the entry gates subjected to security checking and frisking, the visitors find it very hard to stand in the long serpentine queues to enter the gate after tight security checking. Since it is a tourism festival the Manipur government should study from its neighboring state Nagaland about choosing the place. The famous tourism festival of Nagaland called Hornbill Festival is held at Naga Heritage Village in Kisama village which is about 10 Kms away from Kohima city. This makes the program very successful with the beautiful landscape of Kisama village.

The most important outcome of the Sangai festival is the up-gradation of Tulihal Imphal Airport into Tulihal International Airport. The Golden Myanmar’s maiden flight from Mandalay city landed at Imphal Airport on November 21 for the Sangai festival. This is a milestone of India’s Look East Policy. The state government establishment of air connectivity between Imphal-Mandalay would bring about easier accessibility not only to Myanmar but also to Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and China.

The Chief Minister of Manipur O.Ibobi Singh and his counterpart the Chief Minister of Sagaing Division in Myanmar (a cluster of Bnei Menashe lives here) are keen to open road connectivity besides the air connectivity between Manipur-Kalaymyo-Mandalay.

The State Government has decided to ask the Government of India to relax PAP (Protected Area Permit. PAP system is relax for all foreign countries except for the citizens of China, Afghanistan and Myanmar) for Myanmar nationals. And Manipur government start working intensively to facilitate that VISA on arrival is open at Tulihal Airport and Moreh.
Another positive outcome of promoting tourism is the plan of having Regional Passport Office and VISA office open at Imphal. A cabinet meeting presided by the CM of Manipur held on November 29 has resolved to open Regional Passport Office at the Old Assembly Building as the building has been remaining vacant after the state assembly was shifted to the New Assembly Complex.

What will be the benefit for the Bnei Menashe?

Obtaining an Indian Passport is very difficult and problematic for Bnei Menashe in particular and the people of Manipur in general. The only regional passport office is located in Guwahati city in Assam for the 7 states of Northeast India. One spends a lot of money traveling to Guwahati to get a passport done. And they have been facing all sorts of troubles if a document is missing they have to fly back home (or to travel one way journey 20 hours by bus) and flew back to Guwahati to get their passport done. Being economically expensive it is a heavy burden and also a lot of inconvenience for the people of Manipur.

To have Indian Passport office at home state in Manipur is a cherished dream for each people particularly for the Bnei Menashe.

The Centre government in New Delhi has given written approval to the state government of Manipur in view of the increasing need for such an Indian Passport Office in the aftermath of the official recognition of Imphal Airport as an International Airport.

With Imphal Airport becoming an International Airport, who knows someday in the future we will see the international airlines from Israel landing in Manipur directly from Ben Gurion Airport in Tel-Aviv to pick up the Bnei Menashe making Aliyah.

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