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Meghalaya’s tourism potential in traditional healing remains a lucrative yet uncharted territory

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Shillong, June 17: Lush green forests, pristine rivers, vast green meadows, rolling hills, mighty mountains, mention these words to anyone who’s ever been to North East India and a smile instantly comes on to his/her face.

These are common to almost every hill station, more so in a hilly state. But there is a charm to North East that hardly any other region captures. What makes it even more significant is the fact that the entire region is classified as one of the 36 biodiversity hotspots in the world, and one among the only four in India. This feature is proof enough of the uniqueness and richness of the region in terms of plants, animals, its people and their culture and traditions.

But the sad part is that the region has received an astonishingly little amount of attention than it should have been accorded. At the same time, efforts at the local level are also lacking at promoting the region at various fronts such as adventure tourism, nature tourism, culture tourism, et al.

One such form that is gaining immense popularity is medical tourism. One state that easily comes to mind is Kerala when talking about medical tourism; however, the north eastern region has just as much potential if not more for medical tourism or what is being referred to as naturopathy.

According to Director of North Eastern Institute of Ayurveda & Homoeopathy (NEIAH), Dr P.K. Goswami, Meghalaya also has all the possibilities that can make it a medical tourism centre like Kerala provided that the state government starts and backs this venture. He said a good medical tourism centre can be made only if it involves both private and government participation.

Dr Goswami said the NEIAH can provide good human resource in this field but to employ them, it has to be linked with the hotel industry and tourism industry, which is the work of the tourism department of the state.

He opined that the tourism potential of Sohra, where tourists come in lakhs, can be multiplied many fold if it is promoted and marketed by adding Ayurveda medical tourism.

“Then there is no doubt that Meghalaya will become a good tourist centre like Kerala,” he remarked.

Additionally, if the traditional medical system here is combined with the science of Ayurveda and if it is carried forward, then the health system here will progress in a better way. And with this not only Meghalaya but it will be good for the whole country, he said adding that this can only happen when the state government recognises and provides a platform to the traditional doctors/ healers here.

“Our North Eastern Institute of Ayurveda & Homoeopathy can give training to these traditional doctors only if the state government makes any arrangement for them because without the permission of the state government we cannot proceed,” he added.

Meanwhile, Meghalaya’s Health and Family Welfare Minister, A.L. Hek said meetings have been held with the organization of traditional healers here wherein they found that there is a huge potential for healthy tourism and traditional medicine. But there is a need to organize them.

He said so far the traditional healers were not recognized by the state government, but now steps have been taken in this direction by the Ministry of AYUSH, and now slowly work is being done in this direction. But he did not elaborate on the steps being taken.

Mentionably, the traditional medication system in Meghalaya is very old and the people of the rural areas have a lot of faith on these traditional healers.

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