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Manipur on a high: the unacknowledged drug menace

Manipur police recorded the biggest haul of banned narcotic drugs in the North east region with the seizure of 40 lakh tablets of contraband WY (World is Yours), worth Rs 400 crore in the international market at the inter-village road (IVR) at Phoudel Keirembi Mathak Leikai under Thoubal District assisted by local youth clubs and women welfare associations in the locality. The dubious distinction is nothing new or unexpected, and if the past is any indication, many more and bigger hauls are yet to be expected. This is an alarming indication of the volume of banned psychotropic drugs which is coming through the state.
While the society is immersed in the never-ending political tangles and one-upmanship resulting from a conflict of interests between the state and self of those who are elected to represent the aspirations of the people, the deadly but silent menace of drug abuse is rapidly spreading its tentacles in the state, and despite numerous and increasingly larger hauls on record, the state authorities are evidently unable to make much headway into stemming the flow of the drugs into Manipur.
The task, however, is easier said than done. According to a report by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Myanmar is the world’s second-largest opium poppy grower, beaten only by Afghanistan. Shan State remains the center of Myanmar’s opium activities, accounting for 92 per cent of opium poppy cultivation, with the remainder located mainly in Kachin State. In 2013, it was estimated that 57,814 hectares were under opium poppy cultivation, a significant increase of 13 % compared to 2012. Despite eradication efforts, higher yields combined with a rise in cultivation saw Myanmar opium production increase 26 % in 2013 to an estimated 870 tonnes - the highest since assessments by UNODC and the Myanmar Government began in 2002.
With a neighbor as notorious and uncooperative as Myanmar, the task is cut out not only for the state authorities fighting the drug menace, but even the national agency the Narcotics Control Bureau set up to endeavour to bring about prohibition of the consumption, except for medicinal purposes, of intoxicating drugs injurious to health have not been able to make any significant breakthrough given the fact that another mammoth challenge owing to the proximity to the largest producers of heroin and hashish in the world-the Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent (Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran) -has made India’s borders vulnerable to drug trafficking. Indigenous production of low grade heroin as well as various psychotropic and prescription drugs and their growing demand in the neighbouring countries and international market have added a new dimension to the problem of drug trafficking.
Evidently, the biggest hurdle to controlling the drug menace has been established to be the nexus between drug traffickers, organised criminal networks, corrupt public figures and politicians and terrorists which has created a force powerful enough to cause instability in the country. Money generated through drug trade has been used to fund various insurgent and terrorist movements. For instance, it has been estimated that money generated from the illegal sale of narcotics accounted for 15 per cent of the finances of militant groups in Jammu and Kashmir. Similarly, Sikh militant groups in Punjab and Northeast insurgent groups like the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak-Muivah) NSCN (IM) are known to channellise drugs into India to finance their operations as mentioned in a report of Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). The study continues that 70 per cent of the drugs are transported over land makes the land borders corridors, through which drugs are trafficked into the country. Their vulnerability can be assessed by the fact that 70 per cent of the heroin and 40 per cent of opium that are being trafficked are seized from states along the borders. Easy availability of drugs in the border areas makes their abuse rampant among the local populace as is evident from drug consumption trends and patterns in Manipur, Mizoram, Punjab and Rajasthan.
The pertinent questions right now: what happened to the seized drugs which should have run into tons by now? What about the so-called big boss/es running the drug cartel in the state- has the state authority been able to unearth any significant information and intelligence regarding the identity and operation of any of them? If so, has any practical and sustainable plan of action been laid out in this regard?
Shooting the messenger will have no impact on the people who are really in control of the trafficking and dealing. It is also questionable as to how huge shipments of drugs have repeatedly been able to get past the seemingly thorough and time consuming frisking carried out with ardour by the security forces in various places along the highway to and from the border. The fight against drug calls for unconventional and innovative means as the dangers posed by drugs transcends religion, borders or social strata. Only a determined, honest and concerted effort following a sustainable and broad- based plan of action will stand any chance of achieving success. The cooperation and support of CSOs, NGOs and local bodies will make the difference between success and failure.

Jeet Akoijam

Jeet Akoijam, Resident Editor of Imphal Times hails from Singjamei Liwa Road. Has been with Imphal Times since its start. A National level Rugby player and  a regular Trekker and Nature Lover, loves spending time in lap of Mother Nature. Jeet is the father of two lovely kids. Jeet can be contacted at [email protected]

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