Despite being known as an exotic location and the capital with the sobriquet of “Scotland of the East’, Meghalaya lost its top position as tourist destination in the North East region, said the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India on social and economic sectors for the year ending March 2019.
The investments made in the sector failed to exploit the potential due to non-seriousness of government in getting things done.
For example, the much touted eco-tourism circuit covering Garo Hills (East, West and South) failed only because the government did not release its share of only Rs.38 lakhs for over two years, then there was delay in submitting of ulitlisation certificate by the Meghalaya Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC), the North Eastern Council (NEC) did not release the second installment.
Then after spending Rs.14.98 crore on preparing a Detailed Project Report (DPR) for this project, the MTDC had the gall to excuse itself for the delay by blaming the ‘inhospitable geological conditions during monsoon season’ which makes one wonder about the quality of the expensive DPR which did not even have the sense to take these natural conditions into account. Whatever the reasons, the CAG found that at the end of September 2018 only 45 per cent of the works had been completed.
The dismal story was repeated in the implementation of the Marngar Lake tourist spot for Rs.3.98 crore.
HolidayIQ.com an online travel community and information portal inaugurated in 2016 for which Rs. 20 lakh was sanctioned ran out of steam by 2018 with Rs.10.90 lakhs still lying unspent.
Infrastructure assets bought to create better facilities in water sports, trekking, adventure tourism and eco tourism were not used for years making the whole idea of investment to create better infrastructure to attract tourists a non-starter.
The government of Meghalaya spent Rs.38.63 lakhs to procure para-gliding equipment under the Adventure sports para-gliding activities in Umiam. These were bought from the M/s Pioneer Adventure Tours in 2015 and were handed over to the MTDC. The CAG audit found them lying unused when they checked in 2019. At last count it has not been used till date.
A water sports project in Umiam worth crores was a none starter. The government bought floating barge, rescue motor boat, speed boat, water scooters, body jorb and lifesaving equipment etc at Water Sports Complex, Umiam. The supply order was issued to Cleghorm Meg Company Pvt Ltd, Kolkata valued at Rs.6.47 crore. But the audit found that items worth Rs.26.14 lakhs were lying idle as the Umiam complex did not have back-up power source. All these showed that decisions were taken without due diligence or basic planning.
The result of a special audit performance of the Tourism department revealed a dismal picture of tourism in the state. Despite having announced the Meghalaya Tourism Policy in 2011 (MTP) even after eight years when the audit was conducted the Government of Meghalaya did not have any action plan to implement the policy.