‘Clearing forest’ for poppy plantation Long arms of drug cartel
The War on Drugs has to be taken up on different fronts and this is where the co-operation and vigil of the ‘Green Activists’ become indispensable. It is with a reason why Chief Minister N Biren took to his Facebook page to announce that a cash incentive of Rs 5 lakh would be given to anyone who provides the necessary information or details of the people responsible for igniting wildfire or forest fire in any part of the State. The announcement of the Chief Minister came just after the Nongmaiching Laiphamlen Environment Preservation Committee and the Co-ordinating Body, Khurai submitted a written memorandum highlighting the repeated burning of forest cover at Nongmaijing Ching recently. Note the stress and the italics given to the word repeated and this is where a design emerges in the agenda of the people intent on clearing the forest area or hill side. Not spelt out in details, but to any observer or reader who took the pain to read the report, ‘Probe repeated burning of forest : Bodies’ which appeared on the February 10 issue of this paper and datelined Imphal, February 9, it is highly likely that the attempt to clear the hill side or the forest cover could have been with the intent to make way for poppy plantation. Herein lies the design at play to clear the hill side. Significant to note too that the Nongmaiching Laiphamlen Environment Preservation Committee and the Co-ordinating Body, Khurai had also urged the Government to disarm or confiscate the arms of the villagers, responsible for trying to set the forest cover on fire, until the end of the dry season. This should more than explain that the people who tried to set the forest area on fire are armed or have armed persons backing them, thereby giving a new dimension to the understanding of large scale deforestation coupled with an equally large scale poppy plantation. This is where the hands of the drug cartel can be smelt, and this is more than obvious that in their bid to reap more raw materials for drug production, the service of armed persons who may come under the name of any organisation is being utilised. The hands of the drug cartel can surely reach out wide and such a possibility becomes all that more likely in the face of the recent case of a VDF personnel who was found dead, after remaining traceless for days, during a poppy plantation destruction drive at Chandel. This is where it becomes important for the Government to read the memorandum submitted by the two organisations between the lines and understand the unstated but obvious points being raised.
It is with a reason why The Sangai Express has been giving prime space to the War on Drugs campaign and on anything related to drugs, primarily on drug seizures. It is also with a reason why deep concern was raised over the failure of the Assam Rifles to reveal vital information, such as the identity of the person from whom drugs were seized. Drugs have taken a heavy toll on the people of Manipur and the presence of numerous de-addiction and rehabilitation centres across the State should testify this. AIDS, which at one point of time had assumed pandemic proportion, propelling Manipur right up the chart on the map of HIV, can be better understood via the intravenous drug users. Before the killer virus landed here, a number of young lives were snuffed out due to overdosing. In fact drugs have affected almost every family in Manipur and making things all that worse and more disturbing is the fact that this has not stirred the conscience of the drug traders. Drug pushers being held, drug manufacturing units being busted, at times unsavoury stories surrounding some rehabilitation centres, are all stuffs which occupy prime space in the Imphal based newspapers and this is deeply disturbing. The War on Drugs will now probably have to contend with armed gangs, if the call to disarm those behind setting forests on fire is anything to go by.