War on drugs: A losing battle in Manipur

Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh *

 Poppy plantation destroyed at Chandel (Machi Sita Jn, Tonghlang, Hongjang and T/Huimol)  :: 17 Feb 2015
Poppy plantation destroyed at Chandel (Machi Sita Jn, Tonghlang, Hongjang, T/Huimol) in Feb 2015 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

In Manipur a sizable portion of the young brigade has lost its energy, strength and power to drugs and psychotropic substances. According to the survey conducted by National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in 2017-2018, it has been reported that Manipur listed amongst top 10 alcohol dependence state.

In Manipur scenario,the lists of substance use range from tobacco products such as Zarda pan, Kheini and Cigarettes to alcohols such as Beers, Whisky, local brands like Sekmai, Andro, Phayeng; from cough syrup such as phensydyl, Corex,. Epidex, Sericodine and Bonolex to pain killers like proxyvon, Parvon spas, Spasmo proxyvon, Relipen, Prozep and tranquilizers such as Diazepam, valium, Nitrogen-10 ( N-10), from psychoactive substance such as Morphine, poldrom, Mandrake to the infamous Heroin No-4, the menace of substance abuse has almost devoured the young physique and minds of Manipuris.

Drug trade is considered as the third largest business in the World, next to Petroleum and arms trade. It has been a backdoor business of almost every country, hindering the wholesome development of the nation and destroying precious lives of resourceful youths with drugs addiction and immense human distress.

Manipur being close to golden triangle in South-East Asia (Laos, Myanmar and Thailand ) of drug trafficking has affected drug usage and a large number of HIV cases. The engraved customs and traditions of Manipur society is also one of the factor that number of drug use is hesitant to go down.

Ganja or cannabis and homemade brew have been used for religious purposes since time immemorial. Raw opium or Kanni were also widely used as a medicine during childbirth to subside delivery pains in ancient times.

The menace of drug trafficking and drug abuse is rapidly spreading its tentacles in Manipur despite numerous and increasingly larger hauls on record. In a major haul for the state on 29 June 2019, NAB with police team busted a brown sugar factory at Lillong in Thoubal District worth 100 crore in International market.

For this the State government , had on 16th July 2019 honoured the team in a grand manner worth 10 lakh. Police had earlier busted a heroin manufacturing factory and seized 183 kgs of drugs worth over 160 crores in the international market from Moijing Awang Leikai area of Thoubal District on 17th August 2019.

Manipur 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 400 crore in the international market at the inter-village road (IVR) at Phoudel Keirenbi Mathak leikai on 24th August 2019, under Thoubal District, assisted by local youth Clubs and women welfare associations in the locality.

On 2nd December 2019, Monday, in a joint operation conducted by police and 26 Assam Riffles, about 40.61 Kgs of heroin was found at a house in Sada Khumbi village.Many more such cases had been happened earlier too. 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. However Manipur government is keen to deal drug menace in the state. On 3rd November 2018, Shri N. Biren Singh, Chief Minister of Manipur declared “war On Drugs”.

According to a report of Manipur Narcotic and Affairs of Border (NAB) department, 963 drug traffickers were arrested including 768 men and 195 women under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic substance (NDPS) Act, from April 27 till June 2019. It also reported that 3,716 acres of illegal poppy plantation and 5.51 acres of ganja(Marijuana) were destroyed as part of War on Drugs.

This, when circulated in terms of money, would have cost around 260 crore. The destruction drive is mostly conducted by joint teams of Manipur Police, Assam Riffles and Narcotic Department and at times various Civil Society Organizations, Students Unions also take part in the drive.

Besides these, Meira paibis or Local Women Torch bearers of every colony also take the lead in controlling drug use in their own level. With their strong base and strict rules, it is able to control not only drugs issues but other social issues on their own.

There are also other Civil Society organizations (CSOs) and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) working actively to promote a drug free state.

Organization like “Coalition Against Drugs and Alcohol” (CADA), All Lillong Ant-Drug Association (ALADA) among others are some organizations working to uphold the same. State government also launched “Nisha Thadoklasi“ campaign on 26th June 2018, on the very day of International Day against Drug abuse and illicit trafficking.

While the society is immersed in the never ending political tangles and one-upmanship, resulting from a conflict of interest 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 swiftly 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 drugs into Manipur.

In 2013, it was estimated that 57,814 hectares were under poppy cultivation, a significant increase of 13%, compared to 2012. Evidently, the biggest hurdle to controlling the drug menace has been established to be the nexus between drug traffickers, organized criminals networks, corrupt public figures and politicians which created a force powerful enough to cause instability in the country in general and in our state in particular.

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?

It is not amazing that Manipur Government is still unable to trace the owner of huge drug consignment seized from Imphal Airport on 11th January 2013. That the consignment was seized but the owner is still a mystery. It depicts the prevailing nature of trafficking in the state.

If so, has any practical and sustainable plan of action been laid out in this regard? Reports of seizing drugs worth crores of rupees is flooding in the local Medias every day.At the same time it is also reported in local medias about hustle & bustle in Judiciary, Police department & involvement of elected representatives in the drugs racket.

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 through 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 religions, border 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 differences between success and failure. But the present trend of drug menace seems to indicate the war on drugs in Manipur is a lost battle.

* Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh wrote this article for Imphal Times
The author can be reached at sjugeshwor7(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on July 18 2020 .

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