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Message to Doubting Thomases with regards to War on Drugs in Manipur

Last Updated on February 17, 2023 by SPN Editor

During the BJP’s tenure in the 2000s, the military-to-military relations between India and Burma improved dramatically. Indian Army chief, General VP Malik visited Rangoon twice in January and July 2000. When Burmese military chief, General Maung Aye visited Delhi, India and Burma signed an agreement for War on Drugs to increase cooperation to tackle cross-border terrorism and drugs trafficking.

Ever since January 2002, when the six countries – Thailand, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and China- set up the ‘Joint Special Task Unit 2002’ to coordinate the fight against drug trafficking, Manipur and Mizoram has become a transit route of drug trafficking originating from the Golden Triangle. Since then, seizures of heroin and amphetamines have risen in most Northeast Indian states and they are believed to be the tip of the iceberg.

Why it takes two decades to fight the drug menace in Manipur? Why previous governments are not sincere enough to save the future generations of Manipur?

Huge consignment of drugs were caught along the National Highways, yet the previous governments never thought to fight the war against drugs. It was only on 3rd November 2018 that, CM N Biren Singh announced war on Drugs. Manipur is able to control the smuggling of drugs and busted several brown sugar factories effectively.

Last year, on 25th February 2021, Over 30 communities come together to support govt’s “war on drugs”. Chief Minister N Biren Singh led the leaders and representatives of these communities in taking the pledge at an event ‘All Communities Convention for a Pledge Against Illegal Poppy Plantation’in Imphal.

Different community leaders solemnly pledge that they will support and contribute their best efforts to transform the BJP govt’s ‘War on Drugs’ into a people’s war. The groups further pledge to work for completely eradicating illegal poppy cultivation and other illicit drug businesses.

On 9th April 2018, CM N Biren led govt set up fast track courts for speedy trials of accused drug smugglers. For this, a committee was formed with the Principal Secretary (Home) as chairman, and an ADG as vice-chairman to tackle the issue of the drug menace in the State.

This committee was formed to look into the rapidly growing menace of drugs abuse among young adults but also check the peddling and smuggling of drugs in the State. The committee would be able to track down the kingpin of the drug smuggling business in the State.

A WhatsApp group was also created to exchange the information and cases related to drug menace. The campaign had significantly reduced the menace of drugs during in the last five years. Riding on the success of War on Drugs 1.0, Biren led government has intensified and came up with War on Drugs 2.0.

Taking serious note of corruption and drugs cases in the state Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reportedly instructed N Biren to shoulder the responsibility of eradicating both the malaises. N Biren tweeted saying,

“Called on PM Narendra Modi Ji today and I had the privilege to discuss various initiatives that the state government has taken up to sustain peace and development in Manipur. Also, apprised him of the steps that we have taken up to fight drugs and corruption in the state.”

CM also said that any police personnel using drugs or trafficking drugs or with records of drug abuse should be suspended, put into rehabilitation centres and be terminated after following proper legal process.

This time, the state government has become more tougher than the previous one. A day after the formation of the government, an Anti- Narcotics Task Force (ANTF) was formed under an IGP rank police officer. The drug peddlers were warned to surrender or face dire consequences. Certain modern technologies like satellite mapping and drone surveys will be adopted to win the fight by identifying poppy plantation areas.

To punish an offender, judiciary need to see the merit of the cases and give judgement on every cases. Conviction very much depends on sincerity of law enforcing personal as well as legal frameworks. Official data has revealed that over 10 per cent of all jailed undertrials in India are accused under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.

Currently, 2,58,883 are jailed undertrials in India, of which the NDPS Act alone accounts for 27,072 prisoners. Bail provision under NDPS Act has faced immense criticism over the past few years. Section 37 of the Act requires the court to have “reasonable grounds” to believe that the accused is not guilty and that he is unlikely to commit another offence while on bail. Not even the much-scrutinised Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), 1967, has any such pre-condition, as the Supreme Court acknowledged in February this year when it called the bail provision under UAPA “comparatively less stringent” than that under NDPS Act.

A look at the prison statistics data from 2009 to 2019 shows that there has been a 140 per cent increase in the number of undertrial prisoners under the NDPS Act, from 11,279 in 2009 to 27,072 in 2019. As for convicts, there has been a 40 per cent increase, from 6,156 in 2009 to 8,739 in 2019.

Despite tremendous success in curbing drug menace in the State, it is very unfortunate that some persons and individuals are making attempts to paint this massive effort of the government in poor light and thus trying to weaken the War on Drugs 2.0 campaign.

Within two and a half years, drugs worth Rs 2,000 crore have been seized and five drug manufacturing makeshift factories were busted. In 2019, in what was regarded as the biggest haul of contraband drugs in the North East, Thoubal district police busted an illegal drug manufacturing factory in Lilong and seized 184.64 kilograms of brown sugar, worth Rs 166 crore. In another instance, Churachandpur district police busted a factory used for manufacturing brown sugar. These instances shed light on the success of govt’s War on Drugs in Manipur.

Doubting Thomases must learn that the US has spent over a trillion dollars fighting the war on drugs. Yet 50 years later, drug use in the US is climbing again. According to research from the University of Pennsylvania, since 1971, America has spent over a trillion dollars enforcing its drug policy.

In conclusion, instead of criticizing and lamenting on the war on drugs, we should support govt’s initiative to curb drug menace in the state. People’s unflinching support is the need of the hour.

It is an achievement for the Biren led govt that War on Drugs is successfully going on, with huge consignment of smuggled drugs and WIY tablets caught everyday. Recently, N Biren Singh also assured that there will not be a single political intervention or pressure on any drug or anti-national related cases and that he will personally deal with interventions, if there is any. There will be no compromise on drugs and anti-social related cases.

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