Monday, 22 March 2010 09:53 Mizzima News
New Delhi (Mizzima) - The states of Manipur and Mizoram in northeast India are increasingly being known as safe havens for drug smugglers, while insurgent groups operating in the area amass funds from drug deals.
According to recent studies and local authorities, drug trafficking has been on the rise in Indo-Burma border areas, with poppy cultivation said to be on the increase on both sides of the international boundary.
Statistics provided by a drug rehabilitation center in Manipur suggest there has been an increase in the number of drug addicts along with drug trafficking, with a ten percent increase in drug trafficking reported from last year, Mr. Babil Singh of the Kripa Foundation, an Imphal-based organization, told Mizzima.
“Most of the drugs are smuggled from Burma and it is the third largest drug trafficking zone in the world,” expanded CH. Tikendra Singh, in-charge of Awakening Home, an Imphal rehabilitation center. Imphal is the capital of the state of Manipur.
“There are more than 24 rehabilitation centers in Manipur, and the rate of drug addiction has been increasing compared to last year. Now around 40,000 people are drug addicts in Manipur,” Singh added.
Officials from Manipur’s Narcotics and Affairs in Border (NAB) admitted that drug trafficking in the region is on the rise.
"These areas do not have motorable roads and barter trade occurs with opium being exchanged for rice and some other essential items with people in Burma," said S Amirlal Sharma, Superintendent of NAB.
Sharma expanded, “Poppy plants are grown illegally in Manipur but there are no laboratories for manufacturing No.4 powder (heroin) in Manipur. So most of the opium is transported to Burma, while a part is retained for local consumption. Ukhrul and Chandel Districts of Manipur bordering Burma are the areas where most of the poppy cultivation is done.”
Heroin produced in Burma is subsequently sent back to India and ultimately exported to Europe.
In late February Assam Rifles troops in Manipur carried out a sustained campaign to destroy illegal poppy plantations in remote areas of various mountain ridges along the Indo-Burma border in collaboration with NAB.
NAB has destroyed approximately 245 hectares of illegal cultivation along the Indo-Burma border this year.
“Though we have occasional meetings (every three months) in Tamu or in Moreh (Indo-Burma border towns) with government officers from Burma, we are not able to control drug trafficking,” said Sharma.
He believes there is need for the continuous education of villagers about the harmful effects of opium along with the provision of an alternative program of development. But the problem is that these areas are commonly swarming with insurgents and many approaches are heavily mined.
According to a news release from the Manipur government, last month Indian troops arrested two Burmese nationals in possession of 130 kilograms of raw materials for the making of explosives.
Field level officers contacted in Moreh said there is a meeting slated for the last week of March with Burmese counterparts.