Agriculture & Allied Industries-events Events & Expos

Why we do not need big events?


By Avner Pariat

Recently the Commissioner & Secretary, Tourism Department – Vijay Kumar – was quoted in interviews defending the idea that big events such as the Cherry Blossom Festival and NE Olympic Games must be supported by the Government in order to promote and market Meghalaya as a tourism destination to the rest of India. Now I do not disagree with him. I am from an Advertising background and have had a brief but fruitful experience in the field myself. I still keep in touch with the industry and my old batchmates and colleagues. I see the value of this and I agree that we do need to “brand” Meghalaya better. This much is obvious. However, I have to moderate the ad-man in me because now I am embarking on a political career with a strong emphasis on equality and fairness. I cannot afford to look at these pronouncements nowadays without a degree of reserve and inflection.
One cannot look at such things in isolation of the political and economic setting. Sure, branding the State via these events might raise its external profile but are mega events like these equitable in the distribution of government funds? The politician in me utters a clear and loud NO. Remember this is Meghalaya; the government is the sole source of funds here as the tiny private sector cannot or will not move ahead on anything proposed to it. So before doing something involving money, the government, and especially government functionaries, must introspect.
Increasingly every government has become enamoured with events and they have been devoting larger chunks of exchequer money into these activities. Mukul Sangma can try changing his stripes (and party) but he instituted and promoted these events much like the Roman emperors sponsored gladiatorial games as Rome was burning! Conrad Sangma has simply followed in his footsteps. Instead of supporting – through smart financial interventions – the growth and development of the ailing arts and allied sectors, events are pushed as a quick and simplistic solution to the real issues at hand. They plaster over a lot of issues and no long-term solutions are arrived at. The news stories thus are always the same. Big sports events but horrific living quarters for athletes, literary fests but high drop-out rates, sky-high drone shows but also soaring urban poverty, the list of items goes on.
I was critical of Mr Vijay Kumar in a previous article wherein I raised strong exception to this ‘re-branding’ of the Sports and Agriculture departments into YESS Meghalaya and FOCUS respectively. Packaging departments into new shiny entities without fixing the rotting corruption is not going to solve anything.
Over the past few years, we have seen massive accumulation of wealth by a few entrepreneurial contractors but do they offer any benefits like my own former “evil corporate” bosses? Do they pay PF, Health Insurance, Maternity/Paternity leave, do they on-board their employees into a Superannuation/Pension fund? While we are on the subject of employees what is the official stance on employees and their rights? What about creating policy for employees? Who cares about entrepreneurs if they do not share the profits with their employees! I really wish I did not have to still state all these things. I wish the technocracy and bureaucracy stopped thinking about the “best person for the job,” and looked instead at what would do, “the greatest good for the greatest number”.
These concepts should need no introduction. They are enshrined in the traditional tribals ways of living. Traditional Indigenous communities had concepts about egalitarianism and fair distribution. The Thlen story, for example, shows us the perils of hoarding and primitive accumulation by a few people/families. The solution back then to this problem was to wipe-out the offending family entirely! This is, of course, not what we desire today but the problem was evident even back then, and now the solution must evolve out of the realisation that Human Greed is eternal. How does a bureaucrat REGULATE these excesses? That is the question. In another Khasi story, there is the tale of Diengiei – a giant world tree under whose shadow nothing could grow – and state bureaucrats are responsible for encouraging monopolistic practices by a few players in various sectors who much like Diengiei are choking the others (smaller businesses) under them. Is this fair? I do not think so. Human Greed cannot be watered and tended to; it must be cut down like Diengiei was.
Before signing off I must raise one example of a successful branding exercise by the Tourism Department in the days before big events. I remember once in Delhi in 2008 being quite happily surprised when I heard a Meghalaya Tourism ad while on the Delhi metro. That was a brilliant stratagem. There you had a captive audience – lakhs of people per day – who were being introduced to this place called Meghalaya and it did not have to cost us crores either! I reckon that those types of interventions would have had a far greater impact on tourist inflow instead of events.
Finally as a politician I must raise an objection to the timing of these events as well. Suddenly it feels like every alternate day there is an event! Coming so close before elections I find this very suspicious and wonder why the other political parties are not calling this out like they should be doing. Maybe it is my imagination but this is surely the first time so many events have come out all at once. I will end this article here now and eagerly wait for some fake account/profile to attack my criticism with a write-up as has been the usual tradition 🙂
(Avner Medon Pariat is an MLA candidate from East Shillong constituency)


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