New Dawn on the Drugs scenario in Manipur?

By: Yambem Laba and Ole Wangkheimayum
Introduction
The Good news is that after some 50 years Manipur had become the staging point for No.4 refined heroin from Khun Sha’s Shan State Army in the Golden Triangle Area en-route to the European and American Market and had devastated generations of Manipuri youths with scores succumbing to drugs overdose yet others to the scourge of Aids transmitted through Intravenous Drug Users (IDUs) also called fixed types the Manipur State Policy on Psychoactive Substances 2019 has finally been published.It after a long slumber but better late than never.
Scene in the initial days
In the initial days it was rumored that girls preferred drug addicts to non users because invariably they were children of the elite of society ,doctors, judges, engineers and successful businessmen.But that myth has since long been busted.This is because No.4 Heroin need no longer be shipped over treacherous terrains from the Golden Triangle in Burma but are now being manufactured I nearby Lilong with the Opium from which Base Morphine is converted into is now grown in the tribal populated hill areas surrounding the valley.The acetic anhydire acid which is required for converting Base Opium into Coedine and to heroin is an industrial produce available on the open market in Calcutta and Gauhati costing about Rs.10,000/- per 20 litres.Acetic Anhydride used to be earlier supplied through Penang in Malaysia to the Golden Triangle but following the crackdown by America’s powerful Drugs Enforcement Agency (DEA) the port of transit was shifted to Calcutta and funneled through Moreh.The Imphal Customs had made a huge seizure then also of this vital substance without which Base Morphine cannot be converted to Heroin at all so much so that it was believed that a 20 litres jerrycan of the acid can be exchanged for a kilogram of heroin at the factory in the Golden Triangle.
Present Scenario
The present scene is almost reversed of what had occurred in the initial days when the 7.30 pm show of Imphal Talkies was still in vougue.The No.4 Heroin courtesy Khun Sha of the Shan (Kabo) State Army used to cost about between Rs.2000 to 2500 per gram and that product was produced after employing Chemical Engineers earlier trained in the US and in top universities of Asia.But now the manufacturing units have been transferred to Lilong handled by people who do not even have a Puc Science Degree with Chemistry as a subject.The Lilong product is not greyish white as from Khun Sha’s factory but of a reddish brown in color called Thum-Morok (salt and chilly mixture) .The only problem is that gives a kick high enough for them to get an overdose and die.And the worst scenario is that it is now available for Rs.300 per gram.The net result is that it is no longer children of the “haves” of society that are indulging in imbibing the deadly powder but that of Rickshaw pullers and daily wage workers .And worse is that the age of the addicts have plummeted down from 20-21 to 14-15 years of age. So we have a case whereby the base line of drug addicts is broadening and the income level crashing down down moving in tandem with the price of drugs.So you now have a scenario in which 14 years old drug addicts gets admitted to Rehabilitation Centers for treatement.One can recall a widow coming and stating that she requires assistance to sell one of her kidneys to treat her son for rehabilitation treatment.
The fact that there exists about100 Drugs Rehabilitation centres including 26 Centers funded by the Central Ministry and some 60 privately run Rehan Centres.in Manipur speaks of the volumes of demand for it itbeing a simple economics exercise of Demand and Supply in as much as thE Lilong Factories have come up to cater to the need for the demand of Heroin wheter it be No.4 or “Thum –Morok”..Further considering that each Rehab centre caters to a minimum of 50 clients at a time then it means that there are at least 3000 active drug addicts and if to this if we add the remaining who have not been admitted and have been grossed 34,3440/- injecting drug users according to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment of the Government of India in it’s Magnitude of Substance of Use in India.
Involvement of Political VIPsand others
It is alleged that following the Crackdown of the American DEA Khun Sha who had by 1980 was controlling 25 per cent of the total global production of Heroin was sighted in Tamu.It was there he had reportedly recruited the service of a former MLA and Minister of Manipur by the name of Ngurdinglein to be his courier from his factory en-route to the West.He was then serving as the Deputy Speaker of the Manipur Legislative Assembly and had proceeded to London for a Common Wealth Conference where he was marked absent.It is also believed that the eagerness of Inspector Robin Chakravarti of the Calcutta CID that had let him go scot free after he had claimed non acceptance of the brief case which was ;later found to be containing about 5 kilograms of No.4 Heroin.Thereafter Soutik Biswas of theTimes of India had written about his involvement calling him a “Drug Peddlar” A case was also filed against Soutik in the Gauhati High Court but had soon fizzled out following his assassination at the hands of the Hmar People’s Democratic Convention.
The emergence of Okram Henry former MLA of Wangkhei and nephew of former CM Okram Ibobi in a Drugs smuggling case being tackled by the CBI is but just a side show.The involvement of Colonel Chowdhury and a former SDPO of Jiribam in laundering off a kilo gram of Brown Sugar earlier seized by him all points towards the involvement of the Country’s law enforcing agencies.
Then came the case of Zoukheisai Zou who was caught by Thounaojam Brinda along with 4.7 Kilograms of Heroin and some two lakhs plus of WY Tablets.The fact that the lower NDPS Court had released him and blamed his driver for the ownership of the Rs.20 Crores plus of drugs seized and further the fact that the State Government decided not to appeal against the judgment in the High Court speaks volumes of about the State Government’s declared “War on Drugs”.
Involvement of the Non-State Actors in curbing Drugs menace
In 1990 I was invited by the proscribed People’s Liberation Army when they consigned to flames one kilogram of pure No.4 Heroin which they had consficated enroute to Manipur.The PLA Team was led by Sekmai Raju then Commander of the PLA’s Unit No.1 meaning Manipur area in presence of Kshetrimayum Biren aka German who was then Finance Secretary of the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF) and a member of the Standing Committee of the RPF.That had sent jitters down the spines if drug dealers and had also got the attention of the DEA after that picture of them burning 1 Kg of pure No.4 Grade Heroin was published in the Time Magazine of the US under my by line.
But now the PLA guns have also fallen silent which perhaps can be attributed to local geo-politics but the drug users are no longer afraid of them.
Also sad but true is the fact that drug users have also organized themselves and have come to question of the fact that they are admitted to Rehab Centers against their consent. But now Drug Rehab centers have also become smarter and take their parents’ consent before admitting them under their care.But with the new Polcy being adopted by the State Government it is hoped that the Government will be sincere in implementing their harm reduction program and their boasts of curtaining the supply chain.All that the Government must keep in mind is that the supply chain no longer extends beyond Moreh and it now ends in Lilong and Motbung area and plus their follow up programs and hopefully they may one day be able to allocate a small token sum of money to the Private Rehab Centers for after all they are functioning with the meager funds they are collecting from the clients for treatment.And in the meantime while the price of Drugs have crashed to about Rs.300 per gram from Rs.2500 the price of petrol have reached over Rs,110 per litre and rice sells at about Rs.40 per kilo.
(Yambem Laba is the Chairman of the Realize Rehabilitation Centre while Ole Wangkheimayum is the Chief Functionary of the same Center.)

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