Drug trafficking is today being accepted as a phenomenon of a global illicit trade involving the cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of substances, which are subject to drug prohibition laws. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its annual drug report mentions that the world heroin consumption (340 tons) and seizures represent an annual flow of 430-450 tons of heroin into the global heroin market at current levels. Of this lot, opium from Myanmar and the Lao People`s Democratic Republic yields some 50 tons, while the rest made of 380 tons of heroin and morphine, is produced exclusively from Afghan opium. The famed Golden Triangle is recognized as not only being the world’s largest drug producing region globally but also the main manufacturing area of the purest form of heroin. The term ‘number 4’ for heroin is called because grade four of heroin is considered the purest and most refined. In the journey of people who use drugs, there is a process of graduating to a ‘high’ where beginners start with small quantities and with substances (drugs) that are relatively mild. Over the years, drug trends shift as per the demands of the socio cultural peer norms and the availability of the latest high. If the 80’s and 90’s saw the smuggling of heroin, it is now pseudo-ephydrine that are used for more euphoric drugs that can range from amphetamine type substances that are yet to be properly addressed in terms of its impacts on the physiology and mental status on people who do use them.
The world of drug trafficking is typically linked to areas of armed or other forms of conflict everywhere, be it Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Eastern Europe and nearer home, Myanmar and parts of the North Eastern part of India since drugs are often exchanged or used as collateral or guarantee for safe passage and gun and weapon supplies. The tag of illegality on one hand and the demand for drugs means that there is inevitably, the factor of corruption and huge pay offs, which is why the cost of drugs go up every time borders are crossed and with every check point countered on the way. Market forces of demand and supply in the context of easy availability sets differing price amounts for the same quantity of drugs which is why what comes cheap in Manipur will have a hiked price tag elsewhere in the country and then more abroad. The reverse is true of drugs like Spasmoproxyvone, popularly known as SP which is legally available in parts of the country as a pain killer as a prescribed drug but because they are a common and popular drug that is abused, are banned and subsequently have its price hiked up and very much available below the counter.
The involvement of high ranking officials and security forces in drug trafficking is not a stand alone case. It happens everywhere in areas of conflict and where drug manufacturing and transporting thrives. By the same yardstick, non state forces also profit from the trade with drug cartels even taking on the identity of standing for certain causes to have a legitimacy for its existence. But the more disturbing state of things is when legitimate governments refuse to look at drug abuse as a public health and social issue that can have far reaching consequences if not addressed in the right stage. Currently, drug use and abuse, its manufacturing and trafficking is merely being seen as a law and order issue. Consider this for instance, Heroin and other opiod substances are banned in the country in terms of its use, sale , manufacturing and transportation but the sale, manufacture and movement of ephedrine is very much legal in India. Not surprisingly, ephedrine is a synthetic catalyst that is integral to produce heroin and amphetamines. The other catch? India happens to be one of the largest manufacturer of ephedrine.
In the context of Manipur and other North Eastern states, the imposition of an act like the Armed Forces Special Powers Act gives total impunity not just in court for security excesses but also in terms of the movement of central security forces. This means that these forces can play the role of being the watcher but can totally escape being watched and screened. In the theatre of conflict, there are often partnerships of convenience and necessity and in Manipur, there was earlier no working relationship between the central security forces and the state forces. Ironically, the former are kept in the state and the region on the ground that the later are not doing enough to control ‘law and order’. The sudden ‘action mode’ of the state police in first apprehending AR personnel alleged to be escorting armed cadres to a hospital and the capture of a fast talking, socially mobile top Army personnel may well be a hint at fissures.