The first state level Shirui festival in Ukhrul organized by the BJP led coalition Government should be welcome by everyone denizens of the state with arms wide open. The initiative that aims at preserving the Shirui from extinction and exposing the tourism potential of Ukhrul district has been long over due. Ignoring the fact Shirui is the state flower of Manipur, the successive Government in the past have miserably failed to take any pragmatic measure to preserve the rare Lily found only in the Shirui hills of Ukhrul district besides developing tourist sites. One cannot deny that since its discovery in 1946 the villagers of the Shirui are the sole protectors of the lily which now is on the brink of extinction. The promises made by Chief Minister N Biren Singh, on the opening day of the festival if converted to action will be a win-win situation for all the stake holders particularly Ukhrul district. The promotion of the festival obviously means developing the tourism sites of Ukhrul district not to mention to save Shirui. In a state where there are over 7 lakhs unemployed youths with no sustainable reserved of natural resources or large scale industries, development of tourism industry is the need of the hour and would be a big score. In other words, development of infrastructure, roads and connectivity are pre-requisite to attract tourist.
In economic stand point, the festival can eventually improve the economic condition of the district with rural tourism fast becoming a popular trend for domestic and foreign tourist alike. Taking into account the absence night life, amusement parks, entertainment etc in the state for spending quality times with family and friends, a festival like the Sangai and Shirui, are sure an attraction for all. The overcrowded Sangai festival which is organized annually in winter is testimony. Although, were are aware that Shirui Lily is located in Shirui hills of Ukhrul district, very few visit the place to get a glimpse of the rare and unique Lilies. Most of the visitors apparently are for educational purpose (study tours) of schools and colleges.
But, the recent launched of the festival is the testimony that platform like this can bring people from different part of the corner. It will not be an exaggeration to say that Ukhrul witnessed an unprecedented number of visitors during the first day of the festival. The writer was a part of the media team who went to cover the launch of the festival. The turnout was unexpected and the entire Ukhrul town came to a halt for several hours due to traffic jam.
Another plus point of the festival will be the convergence of the large number of people belonging to different communities across the state. In the past few years Manipur virtually was divided into hills and valley over identity politics and marred with unrest. The capacity of the festival to bring people together after having witnessed series of discontent should not be overlooked. The event featured in the festival like the traditional Shumang Leela, epom, cultural programme of the Tangkhul Nagas, can act as a catalyst in creating a mutual respect between communities.
Given the different favourable aspects of the festival it should be organized in larger scale by including more communities as calendar event. Such an initiative although late is reassuring and it is up to the Government to steer the state towards the right direction for the saying goes “A stitch in time saves nine”.
Leader Writer: Leivon Jimmy