TODAY -

Growing support to 'war on drugs' mission
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: May 11, 2022 -



OF late, there has been a praiseworthy trend of hill-based civil society organisations and village authorities pledging support to the 'war on drugs' mission of the N Biren government.

Apart from these organisations, some local MLAs too have started to lend voice to the government's campaign for protecting the younger generations from falling prey to substance abuse.

Notably, the collective decision to prohibit cultivation of poppies in their respective areas of jurisdiction was preceded by chief minister Biren's words of caution few days back that the government would derecognise villages if poppy cultivations are found in areas covered by the village concerned.

Although the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 lists poppy as a contraband substance known for its psychotropic effects, the plant is being extensively cultivated in the interior hill areas of the state.

Illegal poppy cultivation for opium has been in existence for the past many decades, but its production has undoubtedly increased manifold in the last few years as could be gauged from continuous seizures of opium in varying quantities and the law enforcement agencies periodically destroying poppy plantations, even close to villages which used to be known as major producers of maize crop and other horticultural plants in the past.

Such a swift transformation of the erstwhile legitimate food and cash crop growing areas into poppy cultivation farms clearly indicates funding by investors with the covert or overt endorsement of the village authorities, for they can't feign ignorance as poppy plantation sites generally cover large tract of land.

Regardless of reports on socio-economic studies by individual scholars and institutions claiming poverty, food insecurity and material needs as some factors for illegal opium production in the hill areas, it seems that the lust for easy money, corrupt elements within the establishment and possible cuts received by the village heads are the primary reasons for expansion of the poppy plantation areas.

Thus, short-term measures taken up by the government, such as despatching law enforcement agencies to destroy poppy plants would remain ineffective unless the poppy growers and the village authorities are dealt with stringently. Accepted that broad-based development programmes that address economic and social issues would help discourage the poppy farmers, but it is imperative that eradication and other repressive measures should be adopted as well.

Some years back, personnel of Narcotics and Affairs of Border (NAB), Anti-Narcotics Department, Manipur police and Assam Rifles used to regularly destroy poppy and ganja crops in the state but such counter-productive steps have been diverted towards poppy plants, clearly hinting that the farmers are adopting poppy cultivation due to the huge profit it could generate compared to ganja or other legitimate crops.

Considering the fact that poppy plantations continue to thrive in different parts of the state, the government needs to take full advantage of the growing support to its 'war on drugs' mission for law enforcement agencies alone cannot contain the poppy menace.

As mentioned earlier in this column, it is time that the government start using drones to identify all locations of poppy farms and destroy them before the drug kingpins incite the locals to oppose the establishment.



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