In This Border State, A Special Drive to Combat a Dangerous Drug

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Imphal:  Paramilitary Assam Rifles and Manipur Police have, in a joint operation, launched a special drive against drug trafficking in the state. The security forces are trying to target the rampant practice of poppy cultivation in the state.

Poppy is the source of opium, which in turn is used for manufacturing narcotics like heroin. Poppy is cultivated on a large scale in Manipur in areas like Chandel and Churachandpur, say sources in the police. It is supplied to Myanmar, the country with which the state shares a border, and is one of the world’s biggest producers of opium.

In the last four days, poppy crop worth approximately Rs 41 crore, grown across 252 acres of land, have been destroyed in Chandel district.

Opium traders from across the border lure Manipur farmers to grow poppy, say police sources, in exchange for more money that what they would have made by cultivating rice.

“People from Myanmar came to the village and told us to grow poppy in return for cash and rice,” said a farmer in Chandel’s Chaizang Village.

But the repercussions of opium cultivation have not spared the state. A recent government study has estimated that the number of active drug users in Manipur is well over a lakh, while local NGOs claim the actual number is much higher.

A few days ago, Manipur’s Narcotics Control Bureau busted a mobile heroin processing unit near Imphal. One kilogram of heroin was recovered and four people were arrested.

The Manipur police have this year set a target of destroying 1,000 acres of poppy fields.

Athouba Singh, who works with the Narcotics and Border Issues unit of the Manipur Police, says, “After extracting the poppy, they send it to Myanmar, where they manufacture the heroin. After manufacturing heroin, it will again return to Manipur as the state falls along the drug route. From Imphal, it is distributed to different countries and states”.

The fight against poppy cultivation will go on, say Manipur Police. But moving beyond tokenism, in the fight against the state’s flourishing drug trade, is perhaps the need of the hour.

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