Tripura – one of the remotest states in India’s North-East is a mystical land of stupendous dimensions. Encircled by Bangladesh from three sides (North, South and West), and the Indian states of Mizoram and Assam to the East has been the bastion of royalty for centuries together. I was introduced to Tripura’s rich virile past by Mr. Mihir Bhattacharjee – the suave Indian armed forces personnel (he works for BSF) who lives in close proximity to my township of Kalyani. Mihir Da, as I address him lovingly is a native of Tripura and a vociferous Nationalist/Rasthrabadi campaigner. He has been at the forefront of generating awareness about the multi dimensional richness of his home state Tripura from his workstation in Kalyani. Cut off from mainland India for several decades, Tripura to most Indians is an unknown region and the national media too has portrayed this otherwise beautiful North-Eastern state as a backbencher in terms of trade, commerce and industry.
It is this negative mindset that people attach to Tripura, which people like Mihir Bhattacharjee and others are trying to alter by ushering in a more progressive, dynamic and development oriented outlook for a state that has been brutally neglected for generations together by past governments, both at the centre as well as at the state level.
Today though, the scene is different – a new government (BJP) is at the helm and a young and tremendously motivated Chief Minister –Mr. Biplab Deb, who has made development a priority comes as a real boon to a state which has for decades together suffered from administrative lacunae, red tapeism and reeled under 25 years of communist rule that brought more disgrace than honour to Tripura.
According to Mihir Bhattacharjee, who knows the pulse of the state better than anyone else is of the opinion that: “ Instead of mega developments – real estate, manufacturing and industrialization, a soft and more harmonious approach would be to first tap the tremendous tourism potential of Tripura – Royal Palaces, Bamboo Forests and Tribal Heritage. Not many are aware that Tripura is an anthropological hotspot with as many as 19 exotic tribes and sub tribes. The need of the hour is to develop Tourism that is Eco-friendly and sustainable, which calls for setting up infrastructures like – Eco Lodges, Homestay accommodation units, good motorable roads, uninterrupted power supply, pure drinking water etc...”
Mihir further opines that: “The media has to play a complementary role alongside the Tripura government’s grandiose development plans. A pro-active media that can communicate messages that inform, invite attention, build interest, create desire and convince others that Tripura and the state’s products are worthy of support and patronage will go a long way in the evolution of the state as a Tourism frontrunner.”
Already plans are afoot to put on a pedestal the status of Tripura’s charming capital city Agartala to a truly world class city through the Chief Minister’s initiatives. The city has in place an integrated intelligent traffic signal system, extensive road network and impeccably maintained.
The upbeat mood is well reflected in Biplab Deb’s words: "At present, we are working on projects for better sewage water management system, rain water drainage system and beautification of urban water bodies".
The Chief Minister was a touch emotional when he referred to Tripura's legendary Maharaja - Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya Bahadur who had dreamt of making Agartala a smart and modern city. He also emphasised the fact that Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who was so swept by the intriguing charms of Tripura that he had visited this princely state seven times. That speaks a lot about the ethereal beauty of Tripura.
As a travel media professional, I introduced Mihir to Ideas for India (I4I) portal, which is an economics and policy portal that publishes evidence-based analysis and commentary on issues pertaining to growth and development in India. I4I serves as an ideologically neutral space for economists, other social scientists, and practitioners to use their research and experience to weigh in on key policy questions.
Ideas for India I4I was conceptualised in 2012 by at the International Growth Centre, which is a collaborative venture of the London School of Economics (LSE) and University of Oxford. From 2019, the Tata Centre for Development (TCD) at the University of Chicago too has become an associate partner of I4I.
Already, the I4I portal has highlighted Tripura’s bamboo sector, its potential and challenges, which has been beautifully analysed by research scholar Bornali Bhandari wherein she discusses the livelihood-based approach of Tripura Bamboo Mission vis-à-vis a market-based approach adopted by a private bamboo wood manufacturing unit.
The government of Tripura has to make use of the leads that are gradually being provided by the international media and guys like Mihir Bhattacharjee, who know the state inside out should expand their media reach. Already, efforts are on to invite renowned travel writers, tour operators and airline professionals to visit Tripura through familiarization trips or FAM tours as they are popularly referred to in the travel industry circles.
Mihir has been toying with the idea of converting Tripura’s famed palaces into heritage hotels, very much in sync with Rajasthan Tourism where many outstanding erstwhile palaces have been converted into “Palace Hotels” and their success has been amazing. Mention may be made of Taj Lake Palace, Jagat Niwas Palace, Umaid Bhawan Palace etc… to name just a few that has drawn the attention of the discerning world traveller.
Not many are aware that Tripura, has been a princely state for centuries together and the Manikya dynasty has ruled not just Tripura but other parts of India’s North-Eastern frontiers. since the early 15th century.
In the days of yore, “Tripuri Kingdom” was a protectorate of the British Empire or Hill Tippera while those regions that were taken possession of and ruled directly by the British East India Company was referred to as Tippera District. In fact Hill Tippera joined the Republic of India in 1949, two years after India attained independence.
Travelers to Tripura have been mesmerized by the majestic sight of the iconic Ujjayanta Palace of Agartala spread over 1 km2. This outstanding palace is perhaps one of India’s best specimen of fusion architecture – high domes, curved wooden ceilings, miniature Mughal Garden.
If the Ujjayanta Palace is grandiose, the Neermahal literally meaning a palace on waters is every bit surreal, located as it is bang in the middle of the Rudrasagar Lake. This impeccable royal palace was built by Maharaja Bir Bikram Kishore Manikya way back in 1930 as his summer residence. If you visit Tripura in the month of August, a colourful water festival is celebrated under the stewardship of the Government of Tripura.
The whole of North East India is a biodiversity hotspot and Tripura is no exception where forests cover more than half of this beautiful speck of paradise. How many of us are even aware that Tripura has the highest number of primate species found anywhere else in India? And what diversity in the form of exotic tribals – the Chakmas, Bhills, Chaimals, Mizos, Khasiyas, Kukis – all of them offer a fascinating tribal lifestyle that the civilized world isn’t aware of!
According to the tourism minister Pranajit Singha Roy: “A Tourism Vision document has been initiated and a tourist circuit will be built to focus on the growth in the Northeastern region of the country. This will include various types of tourism, including but not limited to spiritual, health, film and tea. A loan of INR 5 Lakh with minimum interest will be extended to entrepreneurs under the introductory Prayatan Shohayak Prakalpo scheme by the government”.
Non Resident Tripurians (NRTs) like Mihir Bhattacharjee and others of his ilk are tirelessly working in “Mission-mode” to catapult Brand Tripura with mainland India in a seamless manner. Media too must play an important role in the state’s growth, development and promotion. Let us all hope that one of India’s most neglected state is able to tap this potential and convert the ‘potential’ into a ‘success story’. In today’s high tech world, technology is evolving rapidly and consumers especially tourists are shifting their behavioural patterns looking for experiences that are immersive, genuine and back-to-nature.
Tripura is Mother Nature’s blessed design – a design that finds perfection in those immortal words of John McConnel, Founder of International Earth Day thus: “Let every individual and institution now think and act as a responsible trustee of Earth, seeking choices in ecology, economics, and ethics that will provide a sustainable future, eliminate pollution, poverty, and violence, awaken the wonder of life and foster peaceful progress in the human adventure.”