More teeth to war against drugs
Take the people along. This should be the foundation on which the campaign ‘War on Drugs’ should rest and the report that 33 communities have come forward to pledge that they will stop poppy cultivation in the hill ranges must have come like a shot in the arms of the Government. This is where it becomes important for the Government to ensure that it does not begin and end here and accordingly take steps to study why all the other communities belonging to different tribal groups cannot come forward and announce a similar stand. Impressive progress, no doubt, but this is just the beginning and steps ought to be taken to really understand why many in the hill districts have resorted to poppy plantation. Apart from the easy money that poppy plantations assure, the Government will need to come to the point that it is not the tillers of the soil who can be responsible for the mass scale poppy plantations in the hill districts. There must be a well established group of influential people who may be behind the whole business of turning large tracts of green hill sides into ‘poppy fields’ and the nexus between those who finance, market and smuggle the end products of the poppy extracts outside the State needs to be broken. And no small time farmer will have the reach and influence to finance, market and smuggle the poppy products to the market, a large part of which may be outside Manipur. It is this which the Government will need to seriously study. Inspire confidence among the villagers that the fight against drugs can only be won with their active co-operation and their refusal to go in for poppy plantations despite the lucrative incentives that may be on offer is just the first step.
As stated, the State Government will need to acknowledge that the pledge of the 33 communities will need to be taken one or two notches higher. And the first and fundamental point is to acknowledge the fact that subsistence farming will no longer do for the people of the hills. It cannot be a case of plant maize instead of poppy. The hill people can no longer be expected to be satisfied with subsistence farming for farming is today much more than a case of filling one’s stomach for the day. Income generated from farming in the hills has be taken into account and this is where the Government will need to think out of the box and see what alternatives can be offered to the farmers in the hills. It is also equally important for the Government to understand the pattern of landownership of each tribe. Is it the individual who owns the land or is it the village chief ? If it is the latter, then who decides what the farmer should cultivate and plant ? Who takes the major share of the produce of the land ? Working out the answers to these questions can go a long way in helping the Government to finetune its campaign against drugs and hence poppy cultivation. Think of alternative crops, work out and understand the land ownership patterns in the hills and think of ways to economically lift the land tillers of the hills. The more the farmers are neglected the greater chances there are for the drug cartels to lure the farmers to plant poppy.