TODAY -

Drug Menace in Manipur: A critical evaluation
- Part 1 -

Khuman Hanglem *

 Drug Menace in Manipur: A critical evaluation



It was 1973 Manipur, Pacha Meetei's Novel- "Imphal amasung Magee Eshing Nungshit ki Fibam" was honoured with the first Sahitya Akademi award in Manipuri Novel. The story revolved around the impending socio-political issues of Manipur. The author introduced a woman character called Priyadarshini who loves her Motherland unconditionally and called her origin land as "Holy Place, Our Holy Place".

This Holy Place was once an enchanted land and free from drugs where youth were the harbingers of change. But is this just a mere glorification through folklores and literary narratives? The present reality of Manipur often paints a drab picture. One finding reveals that almost half of the population is affected directly or indirectly with drugs. The Magnitude of Substance Use in India, 2019 report listed Manipur amongst the top 10 alcohol dependent states.

Despite certain efforts by the Government as well as various social pressure groups, the issue still persists often derailing the image and inflicting a huge genocide to the future generations. This essay will answer several questions that surround the topic and paint a practical roadmap to tackle the menace of drug in Manipur.

DRUGS IN MANIPUR: SOURCES & VULNERABILITY

One might imagine why Manipur is more vulnerable as compared to other regions. The answer to this would lie in its geographical proximity. The political boundary is adjacent to the infamous 'Golden Triangle' which spreads across Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar.

Production of Burmese "no.4 Heroin" since the 1970s began to supply abundantly in the regions of Manipur and Nagaland. The list of substances used and consumed in Manipur includes:

o Tobacco products - Paan and Cigarettes
o Ganja (Marijuana)/Cannabis
o Alcohol
o Opium
o Spasmo Proxivon (SP)—sympathetic pain reliever capsule
o Amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS)
o Codeine cough syrup
o Ephedrine
o Pseudo-Epherine
o Brown sugar
o Crystal Methamphetamine ('ice', ice drug)
o Heroin powder
o Methaqualone
o World is Yours (Methamphetamine).
o Nitazepam
o Nitrosum 10 (N10)
o Valium

The continuum demand-supply chain coupled with border loopholes favours transportation of drugs through different routes. As per the intelligence reports seven such routes have been identified:

1. Tamu(Myanmar) – Moreh – Imphal. From Imphal to Kohima/Dimapur or Jiribam/Silchar (Assam);
2. Molnoi/Tahan(Myanmar) – Kamjong – Imphal;
3. Hinekyan/Chikha (Myanmar) – Behiang (Manipur) – Churchandpur – Imphal;
4. Somrah(Myanmar)–Tusom (Manipur) - Kharasom- Jessami – Kohima (Nagaland;
5. Bokan (Myanmar) – Molcham – Sugnu – Imphal: From Imphal to Jiribam – Silchar or Kohima- Dimapur;
6. Khampat (Myanmar)– New Somtal-Sugnu–Churachandpur – Imphal: From Imphal to Jiribam – Silchar or Kohima – Dimapur, and
7. Air and postal routes.

However, local plantations and pharmaceutical drugs traded in black markets and sold over the counters without prescriptions are ignored. But 'drugs' are 'drugs' and there cannot be any distinction. A careful analysis and a deep research with effective Cooperation and Collaboration with the general public is indispensable.

DRUGS: FACTORS RESPONSIBLE

Quantitatively, Manipur along with Nagaland has the highest prevalence of Injecting Drug Users (IDUs). Unsafe practices, needle sharing have led Manipur to become the "AIDS Capital of India" by the 1990s. The Social Awareness and Service Organisation (SASO), a local NGO estimates nearly 34,500 IDUs in Manipur alone. Prevalence of IDU is estimated between 1.9-2.7% of the general population and 85-90% of all users are men.

But it is not men alone, as nearly 10% of drug users in Manipur and Nagaland are women.

The increased rate of consumption depends on a multitude of factors. The Free Movement Regime and the long border further creates a good atmosphere of increased drug trafficking.

Another factor is the issue of loose regulation. India's Pharmaceutical industry is the 3rd largest by volume and thus essential raw chemicals like acetic anhydride are easily smuggled to Myanmar. Thus northeast India sandwiches between 'supplier of raw materials' and manufacturer of 'finished drugs'.

The present infestation of armed militants which is also believed to link directly or indirectly with drug smuggling as a source of financing their activities further compounded the issue. 'Guns and drugs' can never be ignored. If the present reality has to be addressed, we need a holistic approach which also involves rethinking the entire socio-political and economic fabric of the state.

Lastly, there is glorification of drugs as a status symbol & excessive politicization. In February 2013, a PRO of the Indian Army was caught with 24 crores worth of narcotic drugs assignment in Manipur. Few MLAs have served terms in Delhi's Tihar Jail for drug trafficking. This not only brings up the topic of the legitimacy of those elected but also exposes the complacent attitude of the citizenry of Manipur.

CONSUMPTION OF DRUGS: ITS MULTI-DIMENSIONAL IMPACTS

The impact of drugs abuse and consumption is manifold. One may quantify its impact on the basis of its economic or revenue loss, or the fiscal impact to correct the impending issue. Nonetheless, the hidden impact of such is far from some percentage of GDP or budget expenditures. Let us not forget the social damage, the distortion of socio-economic fabric, the disruption of family order and most importantly the prejudices meted on the Manipuris by outsiders.

On the economic front, there is considerable health and financial burden. What could be the cost of substance abuse as some % of GDP? The Union Budget allocates Rs135 crores for the implementation of the "National Policy for Prevention of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse". To this, sufficient funds have also been spent by local NGOs.

Also, Food Inflation is witnessed because of greater drug cultivation impacting the rural livelihoods as 52.81% of the workers in Manipur are engaged in Agricultural activities.

Most drug users fall in the 18-35 years of age category and hence the loss in terms of human capital is incalculable. Drug consumption limits chances of entering or remaining in the workforce and frustration again favours consumption thus creating a vicious cycle. This retards Human capital formation and also deters investors' confidence thereby leading to non-utilization of our 76.94% literacy rate.

The prevalence of HIV positive cases and the increased rate of Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is another worrying trend. As per 2016-17 estimates, 1013 persons were tested HIV positive. However, prevalence of HCV has now overtaken HIV as a major serious health threat. Similar to HIV, HCV transmits through sharing injectable drugs, unprotected sex, needle-stick injury, mother-to-child transmission.

Since there is no vaccine for HCV, patients are monitored under treatments using Peginterferon and Ribavirin which is a very costly process. This again will lead to huge Out of Pocket Expenditures. And no wonder, deprivation of such capabilities leads to 36.89% poverty rate in Manipur against the National average of 21.92%.

Add to this, the recent outbreaks of COVID-19 pandemic. If the global issue of climate change led to release of certain micro-organisms due to permafrost melting, Manipur can be a hotspot zone in the days to come. All these lead to an atmosphere of mental distress, anxiety and emotional outbreaks, personality disorders and spiritual degradation. The issue also extends to social arena as well.

Binalakshmi Nepram, the founder-director of the "Manipuri Women Gun Survivors Network" reported on a real-life incident of her childhood friend, Tarun who was recovering from "drug overdose" in a rehab centre. Nonetheless he was found dead at a tender age of 15. There are several incidents such as a 19 year old recovering 'drug-addict', the lone child of a widow who was shot dead by unidentified groups. Let us take a moment to pray for those Manipuri souls who have succumbed to drug-addiction and most importantly their family members.

Addicts resort to crime to pay for their drugs such as stealing vehicles, sale of household assets. And when money runs out, drug dealers gave a proposal of "Sell 10 and get one" as reported in The Economic Times. This way drug addicts get involved in drug business perpetuating the whole cycle which makes it even harder to eradicate.

Illicit drug business also promotes ethnic conflict as many smugglers have organized into 'ethnic' armed gangs who subsequently claimed exclusive territorial command of strategic areas. Widespread trust deficit, segregation of social order, decline in cultural values and moral degradation are some of the byproducts.

It is also believed that a portion of profits are invested in electoral politics. RBI reports that Money laundering activities is linked with drug trafficking and is facilitated by the parallel remittance systems known as "hawala" and "hundi". In Punjab, reports reveal that political parties use drug menace as a perennial election fodder.

On the same parlance, what can we deduce for Manipur which shares a distance of 398km with Myanmar? Free and fair elections are of paramount importance to ensure the infallibility of democracy. When the means of electoral politics are unethical, falsehood takes the place of truth when it results in unblemished common good.


To be continued....


* Khuman Hanglem wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer can be contacted at khumanhanglem(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on December 06 2021.



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