The business of growing poppy
Special scheme for poppy growers to provide them alternative means to earn their livelihood and this is perfectly in line with the much tom tommed War on Drugs campaign launched by the State Government. Not clear how seriously the appeal of the Chief Minister would have been taken by Union Home Minister Amit Shah during the 69th plenary meeting of the North Eastern Council on January 22, but an important point has been delivered and this may be taken as one of the more meaningful steps taken up to address the rampant use of hill sides to grow poppy. Obviously the climate, the temperature the soil and the rain must be ideally suited for poppy cultivation in the hill districts of Manipur and the yield too must be lucrative, attracting many to grow poppy. Apparently every part of a poppy plant yields money or in another word, every part of the plant may be used to extract opiads. According to Wikipedia, the dried leaves and stalks may be used for traditional opium extraction and along with the pods may be used in commercial manufacture of morphine. Heroin may also be extracted from the poppy plants suggesting that every part of the plant may be used to manufacture opium, morphine and heroin. The going rate for a Kg of opium must be high, very high and obvious that the yield must be more financially rewarding than growing other crops on the hill side. It is keeping this fact in mind that the Chief Minister has urged the Centre to provide alternative livelihoods to wean away the poppy growers from cultivating the highly toxic plant, the product of which may be used as the base of so many drugs. And it stands that providing alternative means of livelihood to the growers should come with the rider that the identities of the growers are established without any doubt.
What is the model of land ownership in the hill areas ? With no patta system it may be difficult to ascertain to whom a particular stretch of a hill side belongs to. Moreover the Government will also need to work out the land ownership model practised by Kuki villages and Naga villages. Do the land which an individual till belong to the village chief or the individual or the village authority ? How much say does a village chief have over how the land is used in the hill districts ? These are some basic questions that need to be studied. Moreover it should also be clear, that the real tillers of the soil may not exactly be the owner of the poppy plant which is grown. The tiller could just be a hired hand, with the owner of the poppy plants actually financing the process of cultivating and looking after the poppy plants. To the tiller this may be a more economically viable option, for to him planting poppy plants may mean more income than he could have earned growing vegetables or crops. This is where the idea to provide alternative livelihoods to the farmers becomes important and a relook at how goods produced in the hills may be sold in such a way that the benefits go to the farmers may be seriously studied. How about the yield ? These are some points which the Government would need to study and the bottomline should not be just waging a war on drugs but also about providing farmers in the hills with viable activities so that they can live more respectfully. Would the Government have taken note of the poor farmers in the hills if there were no poppy plantations is a question that only the Government can answer.