Independence Day was celebrated across Meghalaya on August 15 with Chief Minister Conrad Sangma hoisting the Tricolour at Polo Ground in Shillong. On the occasion, Sangma launched a ‘Restart Meghalaya Mission’ to revive the state economy, which has been hit hard due to COVID-19 pandemic.

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“This mission comprises a series of programs to support our farmers, and entrepreneurs and to build growth promoting basic infrastructure and services. We are calling this mission ‘Restart’ because we want to revive and give a push to the different development activities that were brought to a standstill by COVID-19,” Sangma said.

He said the mission was based on the recommendations of the Chief Minister’s Task Force on the economy on short, medium and long-term measures for reviving the state economy, which has been hit hard due to the pandemic.

The chief minister committed an amount of Rs 14,515 crore to be spent over the next three years for the mission, of which Rs 7,839 crore has been earmarked for this year.

Sangma spelt out the six programmes under “Restart Meghalaya Mission’, which include agriculture and its allied sectors, promotion of well-being and livelihoods in rural area, providing a one-time grant support of upto Rs 10,000 for any new small business loans of upto Rs 50,000 for small businesses and entrepreneurs under chief minister’s support programme.

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The chief minister also committed a total investment of Rs 8,753 crore over the next three years in terms of infrastructures and 13 major roads covering a length of about 350 km will be constructed at an estimated cost of Rs 850 crores.

Stating that the fifth priority area focuses on tourism, the chief minister informed that close to 50,000 people are dependent on tourism for sustenance and livelihood in Meghalaya.

“Unfortunately, it might take many more months for normal travel and tourism to be restored. However, I am hopeful we will be able to do limited and restricted openings as and when the COVID-19 situation improves in the rest of the country,” he expressed optimism.

“We can focus on destinations away from urban areas with plenty of open spaces and with minimal COVID-19 related risks. Meghalaya is ideally positioned as a pristine, low-COVID destination and many high-spending tourists from within the country will be very keen to travel here. Our goal, whenever we reopen, is to transition to a model of high value-low volume – sustainable tourism. To become a high-value destination, we need to increase the number of high-value rooms from the current number of 200 to at least 500 in the next two years,” he emphasized.

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“As private investment might be difficult to come through, the government will make the investments of about Rs 200 crore in creating high value accommodation and tourism infrastructure. We have already finalized the planning process for iconic tourism projects like the ropeway to Shillong Peak and a luxury boutique resort in the Nokrek Area in Garo Hills among others,” he informed.

“The government will put in thorough COVID-prevention protocols to ensure the safety of both the locals and the visitors,” he assured.

“The sixth and perhaps the most significant priority area is human development. We are taking steps to ensure that children continue to learn, despite the shutting down of schools. To facilitate remote learning, we are planning to distribute tablets to 25,000 Class XI students. On the infrastructure front, the process of construction of 13 Ekalavya Model Residential Schools will soon begin, another 25 such schools have recently been sanctioned. I am taking all steps to ensure the completion of all the 40 Ekalavya Model Residential Schools by the end of 2022,” he said.

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