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The New Destination for Tourists By Partha Chattopadhya.

The magnificent seven States of the North East are now poised to welcome tourists as never before.

With peace returning in most of them, tourists have gradually begun visiting popular spots like Shillong in Meghalaya and Kaziranga in Assam. Many are using the Assam corridor to sojourn in Arunachal Pradesh, a State unaffected by insurgency.

In the past few years the tourism scenario in India has got a massive boost. Infrastructural development has progressed well with better highways, airports and the opening up of comfortable hotels. New, sprawling airports have replaced the outdated structures at Imphal, Aizawl, Silchar and Dimapur. In Nagaland where the people in the recent past would not dare drive alone in the interiors, have no such fear now. Night buses are plying daily without any incident. Mizoram is now the most peaceful State in the North-East. So is Nagaland where peace is now being given a chance after decades of unrest.

All these developments have undoubtedly given a fillip to tourism in north-eastern India. An enquiry at the Arunachal and Nagaland Houses in Kolkata has revealed that every year more and more inner line permits were issued to the tourists. If they take up a massive tourism promotion campaign, a larger number of tourists will definitely overcome their diffidence to visit the North-Eastern States.

Domestic tourists by and large have lost the charm of visiting conventional destinations like Darjeeling, Kulu, Manali, Dharmashala and Ooty. For them the North-East would be a good change - a new, unexplored destination.
The North-Eastern hill stations like Aizawl, Shillong, Kohima, Haflong and Tawang unfold to the tourists the varieties of landscape, leaving no room for boredom. The land is picturesque and lush green. They bring a soothing effect on anyone who has been confined to a city for long. The atmosphere is breathtaking. It strikes the visitor the moment he or she enters the region. Nature unfolds a strange ambience in many North-Eastern sites, as they are still largely free from pollution. What a bliss that such a vast area is still open for tourists to discover! There are interesting varieties of flora and fauna awaiting the first full view by nature lovers.

Guwahati, Imphal and Aizawl are ideally suited for weekend tours from Kolkata. Just an hour’s flight will take one to Aizawl or Imphal or Silchar. Aizawl is a picturesque hill station with all modern amenities. In Imphal a weekend trip will take a tourist to Moirang, 45 km. away from the capital of Manipur where one can visit the INA museum. In April, 1944 Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose led his INA soldiers upto this point. The museum possesses some valuable documents of the INA. Five kilometres from the museum lies the Loktak Lake, the largest fresh water natural reservoir in the North-East.
Assam is the most charming place so far as tourism is concerned. The State has much to offer. They include a huge national park, Kaziranga, near Jorhat, to several holy Hindu shrines such as Kamrup Kamakhya in Guwahati, the Shiv temple at Sibsagar and a beautiful hill station, Haflong.

A fascinating trip through the North-East comprises a number of options. One can reach Guwahati from Kolkata or Delhi either by train or by air. From Guwahati one may go to Kaziranga by bus. From the Kaziranga Sanctuary tourists can go to Jorhat and from there either they can catch a bus or plane for Dimapur. From Dimapur one can take a bus to Kohima and from Kohima one may take another bus to Imphal. From Imphal the tourist can fly back to Kolkata or Delhi. For visiting Arunachal Pradesh, tourists have to go to Tejpur by bus. It is the gateway to the picturesque destinations of Bomdila, Tawang and Itanagar. The tourist season in the North-East starts from October and winter is the best time. Barring some places at high altitude, the temperature never drops below ten degrees Celsius.

Tura is another tourist spot in Meghalaya, a magnificent small town dotted with springs and streamlets. The serene beauty of the place gives a feeling of pre-history to the visitors. Tura could be reached from Guwahati by bus. The adventurous traveller can reach Shillong by bus from Tura and after a day’s halt over there one can take another bus for either Karimganj on the Bangladesh border or Silchar on the Barak River. The Barak is known as a ‘Valley of Peace’. From Silchar, there is a bus for Agartala via Dharmanagar. Buses for Imphal and Aizawl leave daily. Imphal could be reached by air, a mere fifteen-minute flight from Silchar.

Another memorable experience is to board the Barak Valley Express at Silchar for Haflong and then catch the same train for Lamding to get into a Howrah-bound train. Barak Valley Express, the meter gauge train, passes through numerous ridges and valleys going up and down. It passes through several tunnels, creating an eerie feeling.
The North-Eastern States have a tremendous scope for developing adventure tourism. Trekking and mountaineering can attract tourists from all over the country. It is safe everywhere.

Being the most peaceful region, the Barak Valley has a tremendous potential for tourism. The Valley at the moment has bad road conditions and there is no decent place to stay outside Silchar. A beautiful place, Haflong, once adored by Rabindranath Tagore, presently does not have any graded hotel. There are also no proper hotels at Aizawl, the capital of Mizoram, which is getting more and more commercial traffic after being airlinked to Kolkata and Imphal.
The International Tourism Day observed every year aims at establishing peace and friendship through tourism. It is the only way to break the barriers among the States and develop people-to-people contacts. From this point of view the realization of the North-East’s tourism potential assumes significance.

A special promotion campaign showcasing the positive sides of the North-East such as its cultural heritage, tremendous progress in education and the local people’s yearning for change needs to be projected on a grand scale all over India and abroad. – PIB.

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   RNI No. WBENG/2008/27737
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