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Steps under way to make Raja Mayong village a tourist hub

By Ajit Patowary

RAJA MAYONG, April 11 - If things go on in the desired manner, Guwahati will soon have an enviable tourist destination in its vicinity, by the side of the famous Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary (PWLS). With the proposed �home stay� facilities and trained guides drawn from among the local youths, this tourist destination � Raja Mayong village � is expected to provide the tourists with the unique touch of the traditional Assamese way of life, which has tremendous attraction for the foreign as well as domestic tourists.

The Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE) is developing this tourist destination by exploiting the tourism potential of this century-old historic Assamese village, known for the magic practised by its people traditionally. It is located around 35 km south east of the capital city of the State, in the Mayong Development Block of Morigaon District. The village has a population of around 5,000 in 558 households.

This initiative of the IIE is a part of its efforts to develop this village into a model one. Around 95 per cent of its people belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), with two per cent belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the rest belonging to the general castes with all of them practising Hinduism.

According to Manoj Das, Director, IIE, though agriculture is the main occupation of the Raja Mayong people, majority of them are marginalized farmers. Almost 60 per cent of the household in the village possess less than five bighas of tilling land, while five per cent of the villagers have less than a bigha of farmland.

Each of the around 20 per cent of its household has a monthly income of less than Rs 5,000 and hence they may be categorized as below poverty line (BPL) people. Each of the almost 70 per cent of its household has a monthly income in the range of Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000. Only a small fraction of the village household that constitutes around 10 per cent, has a monthly income of over Rs 8,000 each, said Das.

The IIE model village concept has envisaged maximization of the returns from all the existing livelihood practices. Though over 95 per cent of the households depend on paddy cultivation, modern farming practices are still at a very nascent stage here. Perennially hit by floods, people of this village are engaged only half of the year in farming activities. They do not practise pisciculture, livestock rearing etc., on commercial basis.

The model village concept enunciated by the IIE, aims at engaging the Raja Mayong villagers in a series of activities to uplift their living standards to the desired level within a specified time frame.

A key role of the village is envisaged for the well being of the unique Pabitora Wildlife Sanctuary (PWLS) as the economic uplift of the Raja Mayong villagers has a linkage with the globally discussed issues like climate change and wildlife conservation, Das said.

The project advocates for a paradigm shift in the agricultural practices of the villagers that will transform the village economy within a short period of time. The new ideas proposed in the model village concept also include � organic farming of rice and seasonal vegetables, �milk village concept,� a village gate at its entrance depicting the traditional practices of its residents, a magic training centre along with a museum to display the traditions of the Raja Mayong people, Das said.

On top of all these, the traditional weaving skill of the Raja Mayong womenfolk is also sought to be honed so that they can get expertise in operating jacquard looms. The IIE has undertaken a cluster development project to extend benefit to 600 weavers of the village.

The villagers have also been provided with a reverse osmosis (RO) water filtration system on the Raja Mayong Shiva Temple compound to help them avail safe drinking water. Environment engineer Dr Dipankar Adhya, who played a crucial role in installing this RO system, told this newspaper that the water provided from this plant complies with the Bureau of Indian Standard 14543 norm and the WHO recommended standards for drinking water.

The IIE has also built a modern toilet block, together with the RO system and the RO system and the toilet block are used by the local people as well as the tourists at a nominal charge. Both these facilities are maintained by the village development committee formed for model village management.

National Backward Classes Finance and Development Corporation (NBCFDC) has been sponsoring all these initiatives, Das said.

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