Drug abuse and opium cultivation

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Amidst all the turmoil over economic blockade and counter economic blockade came the news “Punjab is trending, but Mizoram and Manipur may be equally addicted”. The news report is rather disturbing but at the same time it was a wake-up call for all the people of Manipur. The news report says, apart from Punjab, Manipur, Mizoram and Assam are among the top Indian States in terms of usage of drugs. It further reported that the bulk of drugs smuggled into Punjab came from the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan), the North Eastern States are plagued by the Golden Triangle comprising of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos. We think it needs no reminder that both the Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent are notorious for large scale production opium based drugs. Out of the odd 29 States of the country, Manipur, Mizoram and Assam are at the top of the list along with Punjab when it comes to misuse of drugs. This is no achievement to be proud of. Rather, it demands a thorough soul searching on the part of the State and the citizens alike. While Punjab may be economically better off, none of the three Northeastern States can claim to be economically sound. Again, the Northeastern States, particularly Manipur are already reeling under militancy and the scourges of the infamous Armed Forces Special Powers Act, not to mention about ethnic conflicts. We are of the opinion that the news report gives a succinct account of the drug scenario in Manipur. The menace of drug is often all pervasive and disastrous. Apart from draining the State’s economy, it can corrupt an entire generation and destroy the very soul and spirit of a nation. If the seizure of huge consignment of drugs in the past three/four years was any indication, we fear, some well connected and influential drug cartels are thriving in the State.
Yes there have been reports of extensive of cultivation of poppy in the hill areas of Manipur. There were also reports about Government agencies, security forces, NGOs and civil society organisations destroying poppy plantations from time to time. Yet, international watch dogs on drugs trade have affirmed that Manipur is the opium producer for the infamous Golden Triangle. Some of the important factors cited include fertile soil, vast economic disparity and availability of cheap labor in the remote hilly areas of Manipur. Official records say that the crude produce of poppy grown in Manipur is being smuggled out to Golden Triangle through the porous Indo-Myanmar border. It is just a matter of an hour or two from the cultivation site to cross the border from where the yield/consignment could reach clandestine laboratories in Golden Triangle where heroin are manufactured with different brand names like Tiger and Cobra. Perhaps, one reason for the failure to end opium plantation in Manipur could be on account of the involvement of top-notch personnel. Moreover, in the present situation, there are reports of involvement of (apart from local elements), drug mafias from foreign countries such as China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal. If this is the case, we need to open a new front of war, this time against drugs.

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