The evolving drug trade in Manipur

Is the horticulture mission really catering to the needs of the people and benefitting them?

In the past, Manipur was just a transit point in drug smuggling originating from the infamous Golden Triangle, as it shares a 400 km long border with Myanmar. Acetic Anhydride and other acids used in manufacturing Heroin used to be smuggled from the Indian side through Manipur in large quantities then. Of course, opium was plenty in the Golden Triangle then. Now, ephedrine is in high demand across the border. Methamphetamine is commonly prepared illicitly by the reduction of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine. In the 80s, drug abuse among the youth started in Manipur owing to leakages in transit of heroin consignments from Myanmar, which ultimately led to HIV/AIDS. And, the rest is history.

Now, the story is different. There is large scale poppy plantation in the hill areas. Earlier, poppy plantation in Manipur hills was mainly in the regions bordering Myanmar and the opium extracted from these poppy fields was generally meant for supply to minor heroin manufacturing units just across the border. Somehow, poppy plantation became widespread in the hills and it began to be treated as some sort of ‘cash crop’ yielding easy money. And, the heroin manufacturing units also came up in the state itself, mostly in the valley areas of Thoubal district. Recently a few days ago, Manipur police busted a drug manufacturing unit and seized over 435 kg of suspected brown sugar and 438 litres of morphine liquid along with many other items used in the manufacturing of contraband illegal drugs from Moijing area of Thoubal district. And this is not the first. Besides the regular police, other agencies like the specialised unit of Manipur Police NAB, NCB and even Assam Rifles troops have been regularly raiding and busting such manufacturing units for quite some time now. Items like lime, vice, iron plates, pots, plastic bin and rubber hand gloves were also recovered from such manufacturing sites. Of course, the agencies had the help and support of anti-drug campaigners like Anjuman Ishla-e Muashra.

It has also become evident that drug cartels based in Manipur have become major suppliers of Brown Sugar, Heroin and other synthetic drugs across the country. In September this year, a large consignment of drugs valued at Rs 5 crores was seized in Karbi Anglong district along with three persons. The haul included brown sugar, heroin and Methamphetamine tablets which were in 143 packets, and suspected to be smuggled from Myanmar through Manipur. This is just an instance.

Drug seizure of Manipur origin in various cities of the country has been a regular occurrence, in the recent past. According to investigating agencies in the state, poppy cultivation is rampant in Manipur as the same fetches more money than other crops and the farmers are also supported by the drug mafia and the cross-border network of illegal drug traders. The state's law enforcement agencies have destroyed over 5,000 acres of illicit poppy cultivation in the past two years and seized more than 1000 kg of poppy and poppy derivatives like heroin and brown sugar.

The Chief Minister, while asking villagers to choose alternative means of livelihood like plantation of palm trees, lemongrass and other horticulture items or mithun rearing, has also promised to launch a massive drive soon to end poppy cultivation. Besides clamping down on drug dealers and illegal plantation and adding more teeth to the proposed drug policy, the state needs to re-examine the implementation of the Horticulture Mission in the state while looking to provide alternative means of livelihood to the impoverished hill people. Is the mission really catering to the needs of the people and benefitting them? Or is it still in pilot project stage confined to some areas only? We think, something is seriously wrong with the implementation part of the mission and it needs to be amended.

 
 
First Published:Nov. 3, 2020, 8:32 a.m.

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