Let us give unstinted Support to War on Drugs campaign: PAPPM

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Imphal: People’s Alliance for Peace and Progress, Manipur (PAPPM) says it is quite disturbed by the attempt by some politicians especially by Manipur PPC president K. Meghachandra Singh and some individuals to derail the present campaign of War on Drugs in the aftermath of the arrest of five Manipur Police personnel illegally transporting a huge quantity of drugs from Moreh town.

To highlight the gravity of the situation, it is worth noting that the drug problem in Manipur has been in Manipur for a long time is very deep rooted and to root out the problem the unstinted support of public to the undergoing campaign of War on Drugs is very much essential, PAPPM said in a press note released by its president M. Bobby Meetei on Thursday.

How deep rooted is the dug menace in Manipur and North-East can judged from the paper “Guns, drugs and rebels” submitted by Subir Bhaumik, a veteran BBC journalist and analyst of Eastern and North-eastern India in a seminar in 2005. In the paper, he wrote that India did not join the ‘Joint Special Task Unit 2002’ set up by the six countries – Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and China to coordinate the fight against drug trafficking despite clear indications that Burmese drug cartels are increasingly using Northeast Indian states to send their deadly cargo into Bangladesh, mainland India or Nepal enroute to regional and global markets, it said.

The journalist also wrote about the threefold threat posed by the increased drug trafficking to India and particularly to the north-eastern region. The threats he raised in 2005 are worth revisiting.

He mentioned that trafficking through the Northeast has led to a rise in local consumption. Several military and paramilitary officials have been arrested for smuggling heroin or lesser drugs in Northeast India. The drug cartel has sucked in several politicians, bureaucrats and even security force officials to carry on their illicit trade. Unless checked firmly, this trend is dangerous for the morale of Indian security forces. Ethnic separatists in India’s northeast (Except Manipur Peoples Liberation Front & a few others) are taking to protection of drug mafias as a quick way to raise funds. The Burmese drug lords are also encouraging tribal farmers to plant poppy.

He emphatically wrote in 2005 that unless these new plantations are promptly destroyed and gainful agricultural alternatives provided to the farmers, the India-Burma border will soon be dotted with poppy fields feeding the processing plants in western Burma. He also warned of a rebel-druglord-officialdom nexus emerging in India’s Northeast in a repeat of the Colombian scenario, the release said.

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It was very unfortunate that the then Government of India as well as the Government of Manipur have not made any serious attempt to fight this drug problem and today we are facing a mammoth problem of incessant drug trafficking and rampant poppy plantation in some hill districts of Manipur to the extent of massive destruction of forest leading to landslides, mudslides, flood and shortage of drinking water besides the potential disastrous environmental damage in the long run threatening the lives of lakhs of people living in hills as well as valley in Manipur. It is also more disturbing that the Government are indirectly supporting the poppy plantation by way of signing Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement with various ethnic militant groups in 2008 which led to further increase in Poppy cultivation through encouragement and protection by these groups, it added.

It must be put on record that there had been response to this threat from civil society organisations of Manipur. The All Manipur Anti-Drug Association (AMADA) was formed on 20th December 2005 and the Coalition Against Drugs and Alcohol (CADA) was formed on 18th September 2006 to mobilize the public in a movement to prevent and fight drug menace in Manipur. PAPPM has found that AMADA had been the driving force behind the destruction of poppy plantations in Nongmaiching hills range, Molkon Hills range, Dingpi area of Chandel District and other areas in hills districts from 2010 to 2014. They had also reported about the widespread poppy plantation in hill districts as well as the existence of “Mobile Opium Manufacturing Units” in 2014, it said.

It is very unfortunate the then Congress government under the chief ministership of O. Ibobi Singh did not make any serious attempt to tackle the problem of drug menace and widespread poppy plantation at that time. The government was rather concentrating in fake encounters killing innocent people and eliminating political opponents is a common knowledge. The insensitivity and the insincerity and government at that time in tackling the drug problem is clear from the fact the government machineries were reacting only when the civil society organisations like AMADA and CADA pointed out to the existence of such poppy plantations in specific areas and was assisting such organisations in destroying the plantations. The then government had no intention of fighting the drug menace in Manipur is shown by the fact that the Special Manipur police SIU (Special Intelligence Unit) of Imphal West formed on May 6, 2012 to fight the drug menace was abolished on January 13, 2013 after the seizure of a drug consignment from Imphal Airport. It is also worth mentioning here that the Officer-in-Charge of SIU responsible for the seizure of the drug consignment was transferred and victimised instead of being awarded. Had the then government been little more sensitive and sincere in fighting the drug menace and had timely action been taken against the poppy plantations, Manipur may not facing such a mammoth problem as is faced now is strongly felt by the activists who had participated in the campaign against drugs, it added.

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“We have been witnessing a sea change in the approach of the government after N. Biren Singh was sworn as chief minister in 2017.” On November 3, 2018 he declared War on Drugs as a total all out that campaign against drugs with the full involvement and commitment of the government machineries. “Now we are witnessing the security forces responsible for the seizure of drugs are being awarded instead of victimization. At the same time we are witnessing the government making all-out effort to wean away villagers from poppy plantations besides massive destruction of those plantations. And now we have come to a critical juncture where unstinted support of the public to the efforts of the government is required to eliminate the ills of drug menace and poppy plantation from the surface of Manipur. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the War on Drugs campaign has prevented the emergence of rebel-druglord-officialdom nexus in Manipur.”

In this background, it is laudable that five Manipur Police personnel illegally transporting a huge quantity of drugs from Moreh town were arrested on Monday by a team of Kakching Police. This is a clear example of commitment and no compromise from the part of the present government in dealing with drugs and it deserves appreciation from one and all, PAPPM said.

However, it is very unfortunate that MPCC president Meghachandra is indulging in theatrics even to the extent of visiting the Kakching Police station responsible for the arrest not for appreciating their efforts but for portraying the arrest as a failure of the War on Drugs. Any right thinking person would observe that he is attempting to deny the present government the credit it deserves for the arrest of the police personnel indulged in drug trafficking. In the process he is indirectly encouraging the drug peddlers by moral discouragement of those police personnel who are sincerely fighting the drug menace under the War on Drugs campaign. “We would like to remind Meghachandra about the approach of the then Congress government in January 11, 2013 when SIU was abolished and the officer responsible for the seizure of the drug was transferred and victimised. It will not be wrong to say that such acts had emboldened various police personnel to involve in drug trafficking. The situation is just the opposite now and the MPCC president should appreciate this. He should rather be supporting the government to cleanse the Police department of such bad elements. It also unfortunate that some individuals are following his footsteps by attempting to discredit the government and poisoning the mind of the public about the sincerity of the government.”

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“PAAPM would like to appeal that it is high time that we all solidly support the government in the campaign of War on Drugs which is yielding commendable results. It is only through our unstinted moral support that the government will go extra miles to wipe out the problem of drug menace from Manipur.”

PAPPM appeals the Government of Manipur to cleanse the Police department of the “Black Sheeps”, who are still supporting the drug smugglers and poppy plantations and ensure the award of exemplary punishments suitable to be awarded to the “Public Enemy No 1” to those who has been caught for smuggling drugs and undertaking poppy plantations. “We also urge the government to abrogate the Suspension of Operation (SoO) agreement with ethnic militant groups who are encouraging and supporting drug smuggling as well as poppy plantations.”

The people’s alliance reminds that the drug smugglers and poppy planters are the enemy not only of the people of Manipur but also of the whole humanity. “We, as civil society organisation, must continue our efforts to strengthen the will of the people not to fall prey to drugs, drug smuggling and poppy plantations. PAPPM pledges our fullest support to those who are campaigning selflessly for a drug-free Manipur since the formation of AMADA and CADA in 2005.”

It appeals the chief minister for necessary action. It also appeals MPCC president to support the “War on Drugs” campaign.

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