Drug smuggling from/through Manipur

Half a Kilogram of drugs (heroin) worth Rs four crore which was being smuggled from Manipur to Assam was seized by Assam Police on November 19 and two transporters/smugglers from Manipur were arrested.  This report is nothing to be proud of but at the same time this report was not the first one. There have been numerous reports of seizure of several types of drugs in different parts of India which had their origin in Manipur or passed through the State. If one collates all such reports, a very disturbing picture emerges; a grim picture of Manipur being a very convenient hotspot and/or route for illicit drug trafficking. 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. Given its proximity to the Golden Triangle, drug trafficking particularly heroin is no longer a local trade. In fact, it is a multi-national, cross-border trade as indicated by the seizure of drugs which originated from Manipur in different parts of the country, the latest being the Assam seizure.  There are reports of involvement of (apart from local elements) drug mafias from foreign countries such as China, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal. They are said to not only have contacts in many remote villages where poppy cultivation are being taken up on a massive scale, but are also investing huge amounts. 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. 
No doubt, Government’s anti-drug units along with security force personnel and NGOs have been reaching out to people living in the hills of Manipur, particularly at areas close to the neighboring Myanmar to prevail upon them against nurturing poppy plantation. These agencies/NGOs apart from hacking down large poppy crops have been spreading awareness on the harmful effects of opium and heroin. These attempts deserve appreciation but they are too little to yield any positive result. At the same time, a larger issue seems to be evading us, for example, are we in a position to provide alternatives to the labourers and cultivators alike, such as, making the lands permissible for cereal and vegetable plantation (infrastructure support and availability of seeds, etc). Successful fight against opium can be achieved, if the alternatives are provided first and bring the remote areas under the fold of development. In another word, tackling illicit drug trafficking demands a comprehensive, multi-pronged approach. 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 was any indication, we fear, some well connected and influential drug cartels are thriving in the State. It is these drug cartels which the Government and its agencies must deal with a strong hand and firm conviction. The illicit business of drugs is a multi-crore business and any attempt to check such a highly profitable enterprise demands concerted efforts of citizens particularly civil society organizations and strong political will on the part of the Government. Arresting some drug transporters will never be able to give any substantial blow to the thriving drug cartels.