TODAY -

Anti-poppy vows: Govt shouldn't be taken for a ride
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: May 16, 2022 -



WHILE only time will tell whether or not hill-based civil societies and village chiefs, which/who have pledged to support and join the 'War on Drugs' mission of the N Biren-led government will stick to their stand, it is indeed heartening that over 80 chiefs of Kuki villages too have made it public that poppy cultivation wouldn't be allowed in areas under their respective jurisdiction.

The overwhelming response to the clarion call for collectively eradicating the menace of drug abuse and smuggling from the state could be attributed to the chief minister's consistent reminder that the government wouldn't spare anybody found indulging in illegal activities, including poppy plantation, and blending the threat with assurances of providing alternative means of livelihood.

In the present situation, it appears that the government's stand not to tolerate poppy cultivation and cautioning that villages found involved in the illegal practices would be derecognised and deprived of benefits of welfare schemes are having the desired impact.

During the formative stages of the 'war on drugs' mission when appeals to abandon poppy plantation had practically no takers, the government's promise to facilitate the poppy growers find alternative sources of income generation seemed unrealistic and overtly sympathetic, especially so as poppy cultivation thrived in many hill areas and seizures of opium continued unabated.

However, as the number of villages backing the government's endeavour increases, there is possibility of the establishment winning the war on drugs and its assurance acceptable by all for the fight against the poppy menace shall have to start from the core area of plantation with unwavering support and involvement of the village chiefs.

It's likely that many farmers, who are dependent upon opium for earning their livelihood, are not even aware of the fact that it is illegal as their only concern is to earn enough for their well-being, and their children's education.

As such, possibility of some wealthy individuals collaborating with local leaders and village chiefs to abet poppy cultivation by exploiting pitiable socio-economic condition of the farmer community cannot be ruled out.

Thus, along with emphasis on identifying who are actually funding poppy plantations and facilitating purchase or sale of opium, it is desired that the government come up with a policy for placing reports during the periodical conduct of assembly session about which areas and under which assembly constituencies have densest poppy plantation sites for the elected people's representatives are equally accountable for such anti-social activities.

Moreover, if at all the government is convinced that village chiefs, who have so far vowed to criminalise poppy growers, would be sincere in combatting the drug menace then prompt measures should be initiated to discourage illegal cultivation of poppy by delivering the promises of providing alternative means of livelihood.

It is also imperative that the government examines whether similar projects taken up in some hill villages in a bid to wean people away from cultivating poppy were implemented in the right earnest or are result-oriented.

For instance, projects for plantation of cardamom and lemongrass were launched some years back in few hill villages.

If these projects remain unfruitful, be it due to administrative callousness or indisposition of the poppy planters towards the government policy, then it is quite possible that the spate of promises by village chiefs to ban poppy cultivation could be aimed at deceiving the government and continue availing benefits of welfare schemes.

As the prime poppy plantation season is generally after cultivation of paddy and maize crops, onus is definitely on the government to ensure that chiefs and local leaders keep their words.



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