UKHRUL, Oct 16 - The 3rd Shirui Lily Festival got under way at Shirui village here in the presence of ministers, dignitaries and a large gathering of people. The festival will end on October 19. The performance by Scottish band Nazareth will be the highlight of this year�s festival.
Addressing the public on the occasion, Union Minister of State for Culture and Tourism (in-charge) Prahlad Singh Patel said that there would be no tourism without culture. A collective effort is needed from all stakeholders to explore ways to attract tourists to the State, he added.
Patel said that the North East region is gifted with scenic beauty and a rich cultural heritage. Due to some wrong perceptions, the region has been unable to attract tourists and such perceptions need to be changed, he added.
Patel stated that he had already written a letter to the Union Human Resource Development Minister on the possibility of compulsory trips by KVS and Navodaya Vidyalaya students to the North East region at least once.
Soon after his arrival at Shirui village, the Union minister unveiled the �Strength of Unity� pillar. He also released a souvenir commemorating 100 years of Ukhrul as an administrative subdivision, along with Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh.
Speaking at the function, Chief Minister Biren Singh claimed that Manipur has been marching ahead since the last two-and-a-half years. He maintained that such grand festivals have been possible due to the prevailing peace in the State. Earlier tourists were reluctant to visit the hill areas of the State due to law-and-order problems, he added.
The Manipur Government has been urging the Centre for a �topographical need-based budget� to bring inclusive development to the State, Biren Singh said. The Centre has agreed to implement the Hill Areas Development Programme for hilly States like Manipur, he added. Tamenglong has been included among the 82 districts selected for the first phase of the programme, the Chief Minister said. He revealed that the DoNER Ministry has assured that all hill districts of the State would be covered under the scheme.
Mentioning that around a sum of Rs 600 crore would be spent on improving the road connectivity in Ukhrul district, the Chief Minister said that an amount of Rs 250 crore had been sanctioned for construction of roads connecting Kamjong and Tengnoupal district.
Biren Singh stated that the State Cabinet recently approved of the Standup Manipur scheme under the existing Startup Manipur scheme to provide subsidies and soft loans to SCs, STs, OBCs, women and minorities of the State for setting up business. He urged educated youths and entrepreneurs to avail of the benefits of government schemes.
The Chief Minister maintained that all disputes in the State would be settled through negotiations.
Praising the hospitality offered by the Tangkhul community of the State, the Chief Minister stated that more than 2,000 homestays have been booked by tourists to witness the festival. He thanked the village chiefs, leaders and people of Ukhrul for taking the Shirui Lily Festival to new heights.
Later, the Chief Minister and the Union minister inaugurated stalls and opened a cultural show at the Tangkhul Naga Long ground in the Ukhrul district headquarters as part of the four-day carnival.