TODAY -

Senapati farmers commit to curb poppy menace
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: September 03, 2022 -



VEGETABLES found grown at the erstwhile poppy plantation sites on the Taphou hill range in Senapati district underscores the crucial role that village authorities and local organisations could play in ending large-scale poppy plantations.

Had it not been the firm resolve and decision of the village elders and authorities to stop poppy cultivation in areas under their respective jurisdictions, then the economically underprivileged villagers would have continued with poppy farming as it is more profitable.

In its effort to eradicate poppy plantations in the hill areas, the government had been assuring of providing alternate sources of livelihood by instructing departments concerned to encourage the villagers opt for cultivation of legitimate crops.

However, such an endeavour would have generated lukewarm response had the village authorities not extended cooperation and ensured effective prohibition of poppy farming.

Moreover, given the amount of economic dependence of farming communities on opium, forced eradication initiated by law enforcement agencies would destroy the livelihoods and incomes of many rural households.

Forced eradication, especially at the time of harvest season, of poppy plantations risks the survival of these communities, and would eventually trigger social tension; for many families dependent on such illegal activities would naturally construe that the government's campaign is intended to make them starve for the entire year.

As the cultivators would be unable to meet the expenses of their children's education in case their plantations are destroyed, efforts for poppy eradication wouldn't succeed especially as many rural households are dependent on its farming and there aren't much viable economic alternative available.

It also believed that eradication drives tend to drive up farm-gate prices, which in turn create stronger incentives for farmers to continue cultivating opium poppy, and also attract newcomers to the industry.

Thus, in areas where large-scale illegal opium'production is rampant, implementation of holistic economic development projects along with bringing on board the village authorities in the battle against poppy plantation remains the most potent weapon to wean people away from poppy cultivation, as has been demonstrated by some villages in Senapati district where erstwhile poppy farms were found growing vegetables a year after the security forces launched counter-narcotic drives.

The exemplary step taken by the villagers settling along the Taphou hill range to abandon poppy plantations has corroborated that the 'war against drugs' campaign could be won only if the locals are motivated to lend support to the anti-drug drive.

Having vividly demonstrated that these villages in Senapati district are willing to contribute their mite to the anti-drug campaign, government authorities should extend all possible material and technical support to the villagers to take up alternative means of livelihood like cattle rearing and plantation of fruits bearing trees.

Delivering the promises made by the government to extend institutional assistance if the villages give up poppy plantations will also help in preventing the practice of shifting cultivation, which contributes to climate change.

Along with constantly encouraging the villagers to adopt alternative means of livelihood to poppy cultivations, the government must also prioritise that the farmers avail the benefits of state and centrally sponsored welfare schemes and projects.



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