Shifting of drug supply trend in Manipur Users’ Society for Effective Response (USER) Manipur

    31-Jul-2020
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The state of Manipur is going through a harrowing phase in terms of drug problems which is manifesting in various aspects. Even though the drug problem is not new in the state and continuous efforts are being made to contain the menace from every quarter, the magnitude of the issue is evolving at an unprecedented level. There is no doubt that the far-reaching impacts of drugs are acknowledged by all and there had been consistent efforts to contain the same by the state as well as by concerned bodies. However, instead of curbing the menace in terms of supply or demand reduction, the crisis at hand has increased manifold as evident from the rising drug related threat since the 80s. It is apparent that all the efforts and responses have come to naught and the strategies to tackle the growing drug problem have failed.
The state that was once only a transit route of trafficking illicit drugs originating from the notorious ‘golden triangle’ is gradually shifting to manufacturing of opiate derivatives such as brown sugar and heroin. Large scale unchecked poppy plantations in the hilly areas of the state since late 2000s has only grown exponentially in the recent days. The state and national authorities having knowledge of the same for a decade or so has done little or nothing to intervene in the matter accept for destroying poppy fields in negligible scale at irregular intervals.
In the backdrop of decades’ long political conflict with multiple political fronts striving for their respective objectives, the subject of law and order in the hilly region of the state including the porous border areas has always been eluding from the purview of state governance. Lack of effective administration and the ongoing conflict situation has led to an increasing state of lawlessness that serves as fertile grounds for the drug trade to flourish progressively.  There seems to be no political will to methodically address the issue rather apparent political affiliations with drug kingpins are exposed from time to time. Politicians involved in alleged trafficking of huge drug consignments often get away scot-free due to their power and influence. 
USER Manipur came across sizeable poppy plantation for the first time in 2007 at three hill districts of the state including Churachandpur, Ukhrul and Senapati. This was discovered in the backdrop of supply reduction efforts initiated by UN at various South East Asian regions including the infamous Golden Triangle during 1990s till 2000s. However, a report published by TNI (Transnational Institute) in April 2016 titled ‘Bouncing Back, Relapse in the Golden Triangle’ suggests that not only drug production in the vicinity of golden triangle has returned again but it has widened its influence. So much so that its impacts started to felt in the parts of NE India particularly in Manipur. Amidst this scenario, there is a growing speculation that either the drug cartel of the erstwhile Golden Triangle is behind this or is an entirely different strategy for wide scale production to meet the growing demand of illicit drugs in the Indian sub-continent.
The trend of local production of drugs along with consistent trafficking has put the state in dire straits. The street price of heroin/Nos. 4 has reduced drastically and is easily available in every nook and corner of urban and semi-urban areas. More and more youngsters irrespective of gender including children aged below 15 are falling prey to the scourge of assorted drugs. The impact is devastating and is threatening the very fabric of our society. Here, maintaining a stoic front by those in power and all concerned would be the biggest blunder that will degenerate the human capital of the state.
In order for effective drug response, there is a need to take a comprehensive look at the issue and formulate policies to deal with it accordingly. However, there is no system in place to check the increasing supply and demand of drugs. There is no data to ascertain the scale of poppy plantations or number of growers involved. There are no accurate state data to establish the magnitude of populace affected by drug use and drug use pattern. There is also a growing suspicion of political and judicial patronage being enjoyed by offenders of high profile drug trafficking cases as there has been no conviction in major drug haul cases worth crores of Rupees at international market. 
Another perturbing matter is the seemingly unseen power play being unfolded recently in connection with a high profile drug trafficking case. Apparent cover-ups and alleged attempts to crucify a lady police officer responsible for the seizure of the drugs may be seen as a sign of the rot that has been set into the system. If such disturbing trend continues and attempts are made to muzzle the voices of those who are trying to rid the state of drugs, the day might not be far when there will be no one to speak against heinous acts of drug related crimes, thereby transforming the state into a haven of drug lords and a sanctuary of drug users.           
At this juncture, there is a need for a political commitment that is transparent and accountable and the first step to show this commitment is to give conviction to all the major drug traffickers whose cases are pending in courts within a short period of time.  Simply coining fancy terms like ‘War on Drugs’ won’t make any difference without any specific protocols to deal effectively with drug traffickers, poppy cultivators, chemical suppliers (chemicals used in poppy cultivation and  manufacturing heroin/brown sugar), drug users etc. 
In order to successfully address the issue, various strategies must be explored and lessons should be learned from the experiences of countries that were once ravaged by drugs. State Government must initiate for a collective approach by roping in all stakeholders and adopt evidence based methodologies. Here our traditional ways of securing ourselves and our community through conventional means shall be taken account to play a role of a catalyst in curbing the menace. However we shall also be careful to avoid past misdeeds that led to complicate the situation instead of addressing the issue. We believe a scientific humane centric based response model in all respects will somehow save the drug victims of the state at the most. Last but not the least we also appeal the state government to collaborate with relevant national and international bodies to curb the decades old drug supply trend in the state.