Drug abuse and illicit trafficking in Manipur

Ashem Regina
Substance abuse refers to excessive use of a drug in a way that is detrimental to self, society or both. It is the use of certain chemicals for the purpose of creating pleasurable effects on the brain.
There are over 190 million drug users around the world and the problem has been increasing at an alarming rate, especially among the youths under the age of 30. Apart from the long term damage to the body drug abuse causes, drug addicts who use needle are also at risk of contracting HIV and Hepatitis B and C.
In case of Manipur drug abuse has been an issue since the late 80s. The menace of drugs is a chronic issue that has crept into all the nooks and crevices of the State. The impact of drug abuse is permanent and if not contained effectively, it has the potential to permanently wipe out precious human resources of the State, destroy our health, ecology, society and will have irreversible political repercussions.
From the historical background, drug use in Manipur could be traced back from the early days. From chewing betel nuts and lime paste, smoking tobacco, cannabis smoking, drinking of home brewed rice beer, sipping nicotine water known as ‘hidakphu’ and eating fried vegetable cakes locally known as ‘bora’ or ‘pakora’ prepared with cannabis leaves are examples of traditional use of psychotropic substances in Manipur. However addiction explosion started after colonialism by British Raj in Manipur and after the Second World War (1939-45). Earlier mostly children of affluent families took to drugs but these days with the coming in of local drug refineries, the prices have dropped considerably. What used to cost over Rs 2000 per dose of No.4 Heroin is now available for a mere Rs 400-500. Substance abuse can start with experimental use of a recreational drug in social situation and young adults, emotional breakdown, financial issues, recreational purposes etc. With the drop in the price of such substances like No.4 Heroin drug use started affecting the lower middle class as children of rickshaw pullers and masons have started taking to it.
The story of narcotics in North East India started around 1983 when heroin, a deadly derivative of morphine, started making an entry into our society, particularly Manipur. Within two decades, the North East States recorded 1,10,000  drug addicts and over 6871 HIV positive cases, with Manipur having nearly 8 percent of India’s total HIV positive cases and ranked third in India. It is vital to note that 75 percent of the HIV cases in Manipur were intravenous drug users, and the disease spread to the sexual partners and their children. There is no denying that Manipur had become an addict explosion zone where illicit trafficking took place. But the coming in of the Manipur Aids Control Society (MACS) has helped stemmed the Aids tide and with the introduction of ART tablets which has now become, somewhat, a manageable disease. But the number of drug users had increased manifold over time. This is evident from the mushrooming growth of Rehabilitation Centres across the State.
Proliferation of narcotics production started in the Golden Triangle following the Second World War. Almost 80 percent of the world’s opiates originated from the ‘Golden Crescent’ and ‘Golden Triangle’ area, now called ‘Golden Pentagon’ with the introduction of Vietnam-Cambodia and Nagaland-Manipur in North East India.
North East India shares 1643 kilometer border with Myanmar, which belongs to the Golden Triangle group, a drug producing area where 68 percent of all the illicit opium production and refining in the world takes places, heroin from these region soon found its way to Western Europe as a new smuggling route opened through China. North East India particularly Manipur too falls in the heroin trafficking route with many of the heroin producing labs located near the Indo-Burma border. The drugs from Myanmar smuggled to other States of India via Manipur are Amphetamine, Brown Sugar, Crystal Methamphetamine, Heroin Powder, World is Yours and the drugs from other States of India smuggled to Myanmar via Manipur are Codeine, Ephedrine, Nitro- sum-10 tablets, Spasmo-Proxyvon capsules etc. Transportation of drugs takes place either on land or air routes.
Reports in 1989 pointed out that Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland together accounted for the smuggling of at least 20kg of heroin everyday and that the bulk of it was sent to different parts of the country for eventually routing to the United States and Europe. Heroin was then sold under different brands such as ‘Two Lions and a Globe’, ‘Double Globe’, ‘Five Stars’ and ‘Dangerous’.
Scientifically analysed, drugs has its use value and it exist as a profitable commodity in the market of an overarching liberal political economy. It is an addictive commodity supplied for consumption. Good or bad; variants of this commodity is available in either white or black markets. It is in this context that the role of the States becomes crucial and debated. Manipur becomes a market and a transit of drugs, largely encouraged by geographical factors, economic desperateness, administrative lapses and lack of a collective progressive vision.
Today, Manipur is a hub of drugs. According to the police report, major sensitive districts are heroin (Thoubal); morphine (Bish-nupur, Churachandpur, Kangpokpi, Senapati, Teng-noupal, Ukhrul, Thoubal); cannabis (Senapati, Thou-bal, Ukhrul). Earlier semi-raw opium was compressed and exported to Myanmar and other Indian States. Nowadays, opium concentrating and processing are carried out in clandestine kitchen laboratories in plantation areas.
Poppy is a plant like any other plant. To convert poppy to heroin, one needs to use a chemical called ‘percusors’. India is by far the largest manufacturer and exporter of essential chemicals such as acetic anhydride that are used in the manufacture of narcotics and psychotropic sub- stances. A lot of fake pharmaceutical companies started springing up in the 1980s and 1990s in Manipur and North East India which were used as fronts to get acetic anhydride and other chemicals used in the narcotic drug production, whose illegal refineries were located all along the Indo-Burma border areas.
Thus, it is high time to control wide spread psychoactive substances use and address the issues among the youths in particular and across the globe with appropriate facilities of treatment and rehabilitation and other preventive measures.
Some preventive measures include, a) special attention shall be given to primary prevention for control of youths and children so as to make them free from psychoactive substance use. Information may be disseminated by integrating with other youth programmes under State or National Schemes such as programmes under YAS, NYK and NSS b) vocational career counselling entrepreneurship consultations could be provided by CBOs, NGOs, student bodies and Government agencies etc c) COHSEM, BOSEM, NCERT shall focus on inclusion of one chapter on harmful effects of psychoactive substances use in the curriculum for students d) The State shall adopt stringent methods to check the use of psychoactive substances especially vehicle drivers with the help  of Breath Analyser or latest technique under the provisions of special laws e) educational materials such as posters, leaflets, booklets, newsletter containing correct and latest information on harms, treatment options and signs of psychoactive substances , services available etc should be published specially for psychoactive substance users, health workers, relevant agencies, NSS, NYKS, youth centres, local clubs, NGOs, CBOs and general population etc.