Poppy plantation, destruction & missing link

Indeed it is laudable that the State Government has intensified its campaign against poppy plantation. Since the dawn of the current year, there have been numerous reports of Government agencies, civil society organisations and local villagers destroying poppy plantations jointly and separately in different parts of the State. While these intensified drives are undoubtedly commendable, they paint a very disturbing picture. These days, reports of destruction of poppy plantations are coming from almost every corner of the State which implies that poppy cultivation is no longer an isolated phenomenon in the State. In another word, poppy plantation is a widespread practice and the same practice has flourished in many, many hill ranges of this hilly State called Manipur. It is possible that there are still many vast tracts of poppy plantations in many remote areas of the State which are inaccessible, far away from the eyes and reach of the Government and its law enforcing agencies. But we can never overlook the facts that poppy is the primary raw material for opium and heroin, and the State is located very close to the Golden Triangle which is notorious for manufacturing heroin. If we ever overlook these facts, we are doing so at our own peril. If militancy forms one side of the coin called Manipur, drug abuse and unemployment constitute the other side of the coin. Drug abuse and unemployment are inter-connected somewhere and these are two socio-economic phenomena which go hand in hand. Out of the odd 29 States of the country, Manipur, Mizoram and Assam are at the top of the list along with Punjab when it comes to misuse of drugs. This is no achievement to be proud of. Rather, it demands a thorough soul searching on the part of the State and the citizens alike.
Destruction of poppy plantations is commendable and it is something which must be done without fail. But some pertinent and very important questions arise here. Are poppy plantations done by local villagers alone as local enterprises? Are poppy plantations done for subsistence? Where do the poppy produces from Manipur go? Is any national or international drug cartel promoting poppy plantation in Manipur? If so, what is their modus operandi? If the vast tracts of poppy plantations destroyed so far are any indication, poppy plantations are done on commercial scale, not for subsistence. A thorough and scrupulous investigation is necessary urgently to answer all these questions. If we are not mistaken, all the reports fed to media so far about destruction of poppy plantations do not mention anything about these questions. Yet international watch dogs on drugs trade have affirmed that Manipur is the opium producer for the infamous Golden Triangle. Some of the important factors cited include fertile soil, vast economic disparity and availability of cheap labor in the remote hilly areas of Manipur. They say that the crude produce of poppy grown in Manipur is being smuggled out to Golden Triangle through the porous Indo-Myanmar border. Many quarters have raised strong suspicion that apart from local elements, drug mafias from foreign countries such as China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal are involved in poppy plantation within the State. If this is the case, one can safely assume that a very big and powerful network is operating behind poppy plantation. Destruction of poppy plantation without delving into such details would be, at the best, a superficial treatment and it will never be enough to address the twin issue of poppy cultivation and drug abuse. The intensified campaign against poppy cultivation has a missing link in the form of a thorough investigation about who and who are involved.

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