Mass destruction of opium poppy cultivation in Manipur Vs rehabilitation of Jhumias

Dr N Irabanta Singh
Introduction: Mass destruction of opium poppy cultivation in Manipur by the officials of Narcotics and Affairs of Border (NAB) involving district administration, the Police and voluntary organizations had been in the main headline of the print and electronic media. But nobody bother about its root cause of option for poppy cultivation by the economically fragile hill populace of Manipur. In this article, the writer gave some models for rehabilitation of Jhumias by taking up alternative farming system.
About opium poppy: The opium poppy or bread seed poppy (Papaver somniferum, family Papaveraceae) is the species of plant from which opium and poppy seeds are derived and is a valuable plant, grown in gardens as well as an agricultural crop on a large scale, for one of the three primary purposes, viz, (i) to produce seed that are eaten by human being commonly known as poppy seeds; (ii) to produce opium for use mainly by the pharmaceutical industry and (iii) to produce other alkaloids, mainly thebaine and oripavine, that are processed as codeine and oxycodone.
Poppy is an annual herd growing to about 100 cm (39 in) tall. The plant is strongly glaucous, giving a greyish-green appearance and the stem and leaves are sparsely covered with coarse hairs. The large leaves are lobed and clasp the stem at the base. It blooms between June and August. The flowers are upto 30-100 mm (1.2-3.9 inches) diameter, normally with four white, mauve or red petals sometimes with dark markings at the base. The fruit is a hairless, rounded capsule topped with 12-18 radiating stigmatic rays or fluted cap. All parts of the plant exude white latex when wounded.
Distribution: The native range of opium poppy is probably the Eastern Mediterranean, but extensive cultivation and introduction of the species throughout Europe since ancient times have obscured its origin. It has escaped from cultivation, or has been introduced and become naturalized extensively in all regions of British Isles, particularly in the south and east and in almost all other countries of the world with suitable, temperate climates.
Poppy seeds and oil: The seeds contain very low levels of opiates and the oil extracted from them contains even less. Both oil and seed residues also have commercial uses.
Opium Production: In 2014, world production of poppy seeds was 83,577 tonnes, led by the Czech Republic with 30% of the world total. Turkey and Spain were other major producers. Opium latex contains approximately 12% of the analgesic alkaloids morphine, which is processed chemically to produce heroin and other synthetic opoids for medicinal use and for illegal drug trade. The latex also contains the closely related opiates codeine and thebaine and non-analgesic alkaloids such as papaverine and noscapine. The production methods have not changed since ancient times. Through selective breeding of the Papaver somniferous plant, the content of the phenanthane alkaloids morphine, codeine, to a lesser extent thebaine has been greatly increased.
Legal opium production in India: Legal opium production in India is much traditional. The price of the opium paste is fixed by the government according to the quality and quantity tendered. The UN treaty requires that every country submit annual reports to the International Narcotics Control Board, stating that year’s actual consumption of many classes of controlled drugs as well as opiods and projecting required quantities for the next year.
Rehabilitation of Jhumias: Shifting cultivation is one of the major human activities responsible for resource degradation. Considering the experience of research on alternative farming systems, it would be essential to strengthen the studies on farming systems with the major objectives “to identify appropriate technology of resource management to realize sustained and optimum production” (ICAR Research Complex for NEHR, 1983).
Though no survey to ascertain the exact population involved in shifting cultivation cultivation has been carried out, it is estimated that about 70,000 families are traditional Jhumias constituting about 80% of the tribal population in Manipur who earn their livelihood by practicing Jhuming. Forest cover affected due to shifting cultivation is 855 sq. km or 85,500 ha. (FSI, 2003). Thus, to give rehabilitation to these Jhumias is one of the major challenges in forest development in Manipur. Land affected by Jhum (shifting) cultivation can be divided into 3 (three) categories, viz., (a) current shifting cultivation areas, (b) fallow shifting cultivation area and (c) abandoned and degraded shifting cultivation area.
Case study – Adding value to shifting cultivation in Nagaland: The NEPED project was implemented in two phases (phase – I, Nagaland Environmental Protection and Economic Development, 1995-2000 and phase – II, Nagaland Empowerment of People through Economic Development, 2001-2006). The NEPED phase – I project was implemented in 854 villages in Nagaland extending to 1794 farmers; test plots over 5000 ha. of land. Some the salient feature of the project include (i) introduction of trees as a crop in traditional shifting cultivation fields, (ii) incorporation of land management technology for fallow management, (iii) made special interventions for women and (iv) applied participatory planning design and implementation approaches. Whereas NEPED phase – II project covered 105 villages in eight districts. Some of the salient feature of the project include (i) reserving not less than 25% of the total amount of revolving fund for women, (ii) forming farmer groups into self help groups, (iii) providing appropriate technology and support services and (iv) fostering market linkage for farmer products.
Discussion: Farmers in Nagaland make use of new knowledge about farming practices to improve the quality of production with the assistance of farmers and marketing organizations (market yards), farmers are accessing markets outside Nagaland. Women play an active role in community decision making and have an equitable share or resources. Villages act to manage their own affairs and resources judiciously. They are maintaining traditional knowledge and transfer to future generations. Villages share their improve practices with other villages, becoming models for development in Nagaland. Government consults with community on policies and practices that affect them. Farmers organization work with the farmers to protect the environment, prevent bio-piracy.
So far, NEPED type project has not yet taken up for the hill districts of Manipur. As such, the developmental and living standard upliftment programmes of the villagers living in the hilly tracts of Manipur are yet to reach them. Despite ban, poppy cultivation has not stopped by the poor villagers because of its market value. For the rural poor, poppy cultivation has become the shortest way to meet the expenditure required by them. Moreover, the hilly soils of Manipur provide suitable areas for poppy cultivation. This has become unavoidable for their fight against poverty. In order to bell out from poverty the poor farmers in the hilly tracts of Manipur needs rehabilitation from the government side.
Recommendation: The following models have been suggested for implementation:-
a) Paddy, Cinnamon and Sarpagandha model – It is suitable for lower hills with elevation 200 – 800 msl. Paddy – when a fresh shifting cultivation area is to be taken up, medicinal plants can be planted in the field along with paddy in the first year itself. Cinnamon – (Cinnamomumzeylanicum) is to be planted on the border at proper spacing. The first harvesting can be done after 4-5 years of planting. Thereafter, harvesting can be coincided with harvest of the tree for its bark. Sarpagandha – (Rauwolfia serpentina) can be planted in the midfield at suitable spacing. Shade required by it will be provided by paddy plants. After the harvest of paddy, in the second year at the onset of warm season, beans or other vegetables, nitrogen fixing vegetables or pigeon pea can be planted with growing sarpagandha. Root harvest will coincide with the next cycle of cultivation on the site. The area after removing the roots, dry land paddy may be tried. During the farming of the site for paddy, Cinnamon plants can be stumped and collect the barks.
b) Medicinal trees combined with Ashok, Cinnamon, Sandal wood and Agarwood model
Sandalwood and Agarwood – This model is for lower hills having elevation from 300-800 msl. for compact area plantation. Further, Ashok and Cinnamon can be planted on the periphery and stumped. Whereas Sandalwood and Agarwood can be felled selectively over the years. Ashok (Saracaashoka) is light demanding tree which can be planted on the periphery in one or two rows. Cinnamon (Cinnamomumzeylanicum) is a partially shade loving plant which can be planted in the inner row. Sandalwood (Santalum album) – It can be planted in the centre/midfield for felling. The tree will remain uncut for atleast 15 years. During the period of 15 years, there will be atleast 3 harvest of Cinnamon and Ashok, generating income every 4 to 5 years. Agarwood (Aquilariaagollocha) – It can be planted together with sandalwood in the mid field for selective felling. Agar harvest depends on the infection of the wood.
c) Alder, Paddy and Rosemary model – This is for higher hills 1000 – 1600 msl. Alder (Alnusnepalensis) is a nitrogen fixing agro-forestry tree. It is a good fuel wood. Rotation period can be kept at about 5-6 years. Here paddy is the main produce under shifting cultivation. Rosemary (Rosemarium officinalis) is an aromatic plant used both as medicine and spice. It is very deep rooted and can thrive well under rainfed conditions. Only the aerial portion/leaves are harvested. It can be planted with paddy and let them grow together. After paddy harvest in November, the plant is allowed to grow and continue to harvest till the next session for paddy cultivation say 5 or 6 years. This cycle may be continued.
Conclusion: An integrated approach is needed for checking opium poppy cultivation in Manipur.
[The writer is former Professor (Higher Academic Grade)/Life Sciences, MU and Former Dean, School of Life Sciences, Manipur University, Canchipur and can be contacted through]

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