Imphal: A tourist park is being developed near Imphal's Marjing temple, considered the birthplace of polo, with Rs 12 crore set aside by the tourism department.
Disclosing this to IANS Nongthombam Biren, the ruling Congress MLA of the Heingang constituency, said that the temple was the birthplace of polo which is now world famous. Biren said that hectic construction work is going on around the Marjing temple.
"One larger than life statue of a pony and polo player will be installed in the middle of the park. This was the place where the first polo game was played. It spread throughout the world through the Britishers who learned from Manipur," Biren said.
"People know this game originated in Manipur and naturally many would like to know where the game was first played in this state," he added.
He also disclosed that devotees are coming every day to the Marjing temple for praying. Once the modern park is completed there will be more devotees and tourists.
Realising the tourist potential, the government has liberally sanctioned funds. Biren said: "The park is located near the Trans Asian Highway. It means that a considerable number of tourists shall be visiting the temple and park. Since it is now an international game many players and enthusiasts would naturally want to visit the birth place of this game."
The park and other facilities will be completed on schedule, he said.
However, polo enthusiasts are disappointed that there is no headway in developing a pony sanctuary near the temple. The government had planned to acquire 70 acres of paddy fields near the temple for developing a pony sanctuary.
Industries Minister Govindas Konthoujam told IANS that the Manipur government has sent a project report involving Rs 78 crore to the central government.
However, the central government has not cleared the project. The rice farmers whose fields are being acquired are objecting to the government proposal for setting up the pony sanctuary there.
Some farmers told IANS that they welcome the government plan for a sanctuary since it will help protect the endangered species.
One knowledgeable farmer recalled that as per a census done in 2012 there were just 1,100 ponies in Manipur, its natural habitat. This small but smart animal is not found anywhere in the world. If proper protection is not given this species, it will soon become extinct.
However, farmers said the proposed sanctuary should be developed at a place far away from paddy fields. "People cannot go on starving for the sake of the sanctuary. What will happen to hundreds of farmers and their families whose only source of livelihood will be staunched?" asked one farmer.
Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, who is known to be a tough fighter, is not easily disappointed. Sources close to him say that he feels "good sense shall eventually prevail" on the farmers.
He wants that the sanctuary should be located near the Marjing temple, the birthplace of the game. In the meantime the farmers at Heingang refuse to budge.