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Meghalaya centre to regulate visitors at Umling

The development comes amid growing demand by pressure groups to regulate the entry and exit of visitors to check influx
The facilitation centre at Umling in Meghalaya’s Ri Bhoi district on Wednesday evening
The facilitation centre at Umling in Meghalaya’s Ri Bhoi district on Wednesday evening
Telegraph picture

Umanand Jaiswal   |   Guwahati   |   Published 24.12.20, 12:04 AM

Meghalaya inaugurated its first facilitation centre for those visiting the state at Umling on Monday, a development that comes amid the growing demand by pressure groups to regulate the entry and exit of visitors to check influx.

The Umling centre will regulate the flow of tourists and other travellers to Shillong, one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the region.

The inauguration of the 24X7 centre in Ri Bhoi district bordering Assam’s Kamrup (M) district by deputy chief minister Prestone Tynsong came on a day the state reopened its doors to tourists after nine months because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A tourist/visitor will now have to mandatorily register himself by providing his personal details with his photograph and his place of stay in Meghalaya through a state tourism app. He will then get an e-invite, which has to be shown at the facilitation centre along with the Covid-19 negative certificate before resuming his journey.

Tynsong said two such centres would also come up at Bajengdoba in Garo Hills and Ratacherra in East Jaintia Hills. The state has plans to set up 12 such centres across all entry points.

Meghalaya chief minister Conrad Sangma, who has tested positive for the coronavirus, tweeted: “ Meghalaya reopens for #Tourism today & our tourists have already checked in at the Centre.”

The centre is being run by the tourism and health department.

 “Registration is mandatory now. One can register online or manually at the facilitation centre but it is advisable to do it online and also carry the Covid-free test report for smooth entry. The centre will help us keep track of tourists and visitors in these corona-hit times. We have enough people to man the centre to ensure a smooth passage. So far, everything has been smooth,” M.B. Tongper, ADC in-charge of Umling Entry Point, told The Telegraph on Wednesday.

Built at a cost of Rs 2.70 crore, the centre has a registration counter, infiltration cell, Covid-19 testing centre and a cafeteria among others.

Sources said the Umling facilitation centre or other such proposed centres would eventually become entry-exit check points under the inner-line permit (ILP) and the Meghalaya Residents’ Safety and Security Act (MRSSA) when they are approved.

The demand to regulate the entry of outsiders/tourists through the ILP and the implementation of the MRSSA gathered momentum after the Centre pushed the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, which made it easy for non-Muslims from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to acquire Indian citizenship.

In the Northeast, Tripura (856km), Meghalaya (443km), Assam (262km) and Mizoram (180km) share border with Bangladesh. Sources said the facilitation centres would later turn into ILP or MRSAA entry points.

Robertjune Kharjahrin, chairman of the Confederation of Meghalaya Social Organisation (CoMSO), which is among the organisations seeking the introduction of the ILP and the MRSSA, welcomed the move.

“We welcome it because something is better than nothing. This will instil some confidence in the indigenous people of the state. But we hope the governor will give his assent to the amendments to the MRSSA soon. The amendments will further strengthen the Act,” Kharjahrin said.

The MRSSA seeks to address the issue of infiltration to the state by keeping tab on those visiting the state among others.

Kharjahrin also hoped the Centre, too, will honour the concerns of the people of Meghalaya by introducing the ILP, a colonial era system restricting movement of outsiders to tribal areas.

Meghalaya governor Satya Pal Malik on Tuesday met Union home minister Amit Shah in Delhi and discussed the issues related to both the ILP and the MRSSA as the pressure groups are seeking concrete results on the twin issues.

The Meghalaya Assembly had on December 19, 2019, adopted a resolution seeking ILP, a travel document, which is currently required  to enter Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur and Nagaland.

Khasi Students’ Union (KSU) president Lambokstar Marngar  said the ILP was a must to “protect” the identity of the state’s indigenous people.

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