NE states declare war on drugs as illicit trade booms on Myanmar border

Agartala, April 24 (IANS) The northeastern states of India may have tamed the decades old insurgencies but now the state governments in the region have had to launch a war against the rampant illegal drug trade, which flourished after the 1,643 km long India-Myanmar unfenced international borders turned into a hub of cross-border smuggling.
 
NE states declare war on drugs as illicit trade booms on Myanmar border

<br>Besides various harmful drugs, especially heroin, highly-addictive methamphetamine tablets, also commonly known as 'Yaba', poppy seeds, opium, ganja (marijuana), morphine, bottles of cough syrup valued at hundreds of crores, various other contraband like gold, foreign cigarette as well as arms and ammunition are often smuggled from Myanmar to the northeastern states specially Mizoram and Manipur.

In addition to the illegal drug trade, illicit poppy cultivation in the mountainous and bordering areas to produce opium drugs has also become a very lucrative affair in Manipur and a few other northeastern states.

Experts said that there is a huge demand for opium, an extract of the poppy, in the pharmaceutical industry.

While the cultivators illegally procure poppy seeds from Myanmar, the climatic condition in the northeastern states is congenial for its cultivation.

Former and surrendered militants, unemployed and misguided youths are involved in this unlawful trade as it provides a big source of income for them.

Officials of the state and central governments said that the smuggling of poppy seeds is a major cause of concern for Mizoram and Manipur, especially along the India-Myanmar border.

In India, opium poppy cultivation is prohibited under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, except under a license issued by the Central Bureau of Narcotics under NDPS Rules, 1985.

Smuggling of poppy seeds from Myanmar is a new item in the illegal trade in various drugs.

The Central and state security forces and various other law enforcing agencies during the past three-four years have intercepted drugs and various other contraband worth thousands of crores of rupees in different northeastern states including Mizoram, Manipur, Assam, Nagaland and Tripura.

During the past one year, around 2,375 cases related to the illegal drug trade have been registered in police stations across Assam alone.

Around 4,100 people have been arrested and drugs with an estimated value of Rs 450 crore, including heroin, ganja, opium, methamphetamine tablets, approximately two lakh bottles of codeine based cough syrup, 40 lakh tablets and capsules have been seized in Assam since May last year.

Drugs, gold and other contraband worth over Rs 1,500 crore, mostly smuggled from Myanmar, were seized in Mizoram, Manipur, Tripura, Nagaland and Arunachal Pradesh.

To check this menace, the authorities in these states have taken various steps.

In a first of its kind initiative by any Indian state, Arunachal Pradesh earlier this month launched an online certificate course on prevention of drug abuse, with the aim to eradicate narcotics' abuse.

The four-month online course will consist of modules on understanding drug abuse, types and harmful effects of drugs, signs and symptoms, myths and facts, counselling and intervention, management of alcohol, cannabis, opioid use and related disorders, behavioural change, communication and family role, workplace prevention and law enforcement.

The course has been developed by the Department of Social Justice, Empowerment and Tribal Affairs (SJETA) in collaboration with New Delhi based National Institute of Social Defence, under the National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

To begin with, all Group 'A' and 'B' employees of the state government will have to mandatorily undergo the course, which would be coordinated by the Arunachal Pradesh Psychoactive Substance Control Authority.

Assam, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura, while providing suitable training to the personnel of the law enforcing agencies, are burning the seized drugs publicly while a massive campaign is going on to make the people aware about the detrimental effect of drug abuse.

The Assam and Nagaland governments have recently launched an 'App' for easy communication between the people and the law enforcing agencies against the abuse and illegal trade in drugs.

These Apps will help the citizens to inform the police about the sale, storage, shipment, usage of psychotropic substances instantly.

Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Director General Satya Narayan Pradhan at a workshop-cum-training programme in Guwahati recently had said that the NCB would work closely with the agencies of the northeastern states and the Central para-military forces to curb the drug trade in the region.

Pradhan had said that with better coordination between the state and central law enforcing agencies, drug smuggling would be curbed to a large extent.

Security expert and social analyst Apurba Kumar Dey said that even though the terror activities have been largely curbed in the past few years, a few militant outfits, some surrendered extremists, and jobless youths are getting involved in the smuggling of drugs and other contraband.

"More stringent action, stricter vigil along the India-Myanmar and other borders, providing jobs and alternative income, vigorous campaign about the harmful effects of abuse of drugs, engagement of NGOs against the drug menace must be undertaken otherwise the future of a large number of youths will be spoiled," Dey told IANS.

According to security and customs officials, the northeastern states are being used as a corridor for the illegal drug trade between Myanmar and other Indian states and the neighbouring countries.

(Sujit Chakraborty can be contacted at sujit.c@ians.in)

--IANS<br>sc/bg