From poppy cultivation to heroin production

Was that all or was it the proverbial tip of an iceberg? Of course we are talking about the busting of a heroin/brown sugar manufacturing unit at Lilong Dam area and seizure of contraband drugs worth Rs 100 crore.  No doubt Rs 100 crore is a huge amount. Was the drug manufacturing factory busted yesterday the only factory of its kind in the State? Are there more such factories manufacturing narcotic drugs clandestinely in the State?  How long had the Lilong Dam factory been running before it was busted on June 29. Who are the bosses of these illegal but lucrative drug enterprises? These are some pertinent questions thrown up by the sensational drug seizure. The matter is a very grave and disturbing one and it demands a very thorough and impartial investigation. The investigation must go down to the very bottom otherwise drug cartels may grow into most powerful groups in the society. Seizure of drugs, that too in huge quantities, is not something new in the State. Seizure of drugs is rather becoming a regular affair.  Given its proximity to the notorious Golden Triangle, it is understood that contraband drugs including heroin are smuggled through Manipur. We still remember the seizure of contraband drugs worth Rs 25 crore from six individuals including the then Defence PRO Col Ajay Chowdhury at Pallel on February 24, 2013. Smuggling of drugs through the State has given birth to serious socio-economic and public health issues in the society. As if smuggling is not enough, some enterprising smugglers seemed to have walked the extra mile of setting drug manufacturing factories in the State. Again, if one takes into account vast poppy cultivations done in different districts, heroin or brown sugar manufacturing establishment was something waiting to be unrolled sooner rather than later. Now it is a reality though an ugly one which may prove disastrous for the whole State.  The menace of drug is often all pervasive and disastrous. Apart from draining the State’s economy, it can corrupt an entire generation and destroy the very soul and spirit of a nation. If the seizure of huge consignment of drugs in the past three/four years and the heroin manufacturing unit busted at Lilong Dam were any indication, we fear, some well connected and influential drug cartels are thriving in the State.  Yes there have been reports of extensive cultivation of poppy in the hill areas of Manipur. There were also reports about Government agencies, security forces, NGOs and civil society organisations destroying poppy plantations from time to time. Yet, international watch dogs on drugs trade have affirmed that Manipur is the opium producer for the infamous Golden Triangle. Official records say that the crude produce of poppy grown in Manipur is being smuggled out to Golden Triangle through the porous Indo-Myanmar border. It is just a matter of an hour or two from the cultivation site to cross the border from where the yield/consignment could reach clandestine laboratories in Golden Triangle where heroin is manufactured with different brand names like Tiger and Cobra. Now one such clandestine laboratory was discovered and busted at Lilong, not very far from the State capital. The situation has only grown from worse to worst. It is indeed a wake-up call for the State, citizens and civil society organisations. Failure to tackle the grim issue collectively and immediately would prove to be very costly. It’s time to strike all drug smugglers and drug enterprises hard and decisively.