Guwahati: New trends in drug smuggling in the northeast are worrying the centre.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah was speaking at a meeting with Chief Ministers, Chief Secretaries, and Director Generals of Police of all the northeastern states on ‘Drug Trafficking and National Security’ in Guwahati on Saturday.

The meeting discussed the drug abuse scenario in the northeastern region and ways to mitigate it.

The Union Home Minister said some new trends have come to the fore in the northeast. “Drug syndicates exploit bank accounts and postal addresses belonging to Northeast India. Myanmar citizens have bank accounts in some Indian banks in Manipur. Drug smugglers from the northeast are also in collusion with Nigerians. The suspected involvement of South Indians living in the Northeast in drug smuggling has also been observed,” Shah said.

He said the Northeastern region of the country shares international borders with four countries and the region is close to Myanmar, which is the second largest producer of opium in the world after Afghanistan.

He said that drug consumption in northeast India is a serious problem.

According to the Magnitude of Substance Report, 2019 published by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the consumption of opium and ganja in seven northeastern states is at an alarming level, which is higher than the average of their consumption in the country.

The Home Minister informed that several measures have been taken against the illegal cultivation of ganja and opium poppy in the northeastern region as well as in other parts of the country.

The Ministry of Home Affairs is setting up a study group to eradicate illegal farming in hilly and difficult areas using drones and the latest technology on a large scale without causing any harm to the farmers, he added.

An inter-ministerial committee has been constituted on alternative livelihood arrangements for farmers engaged in the cultivation of illegal crops. Simultaneously, NCB is sharing satellite imagery to eradicate illegal opium poppy cultivation in the northeastern region. Shah said that all northeastern states have constituted the Anti-Narcotics Task Force (ANTF) as a single nodal point for all issues related to Narcotics.

He said that the government has taken many new initiatives for the northeastern states.

“In the coming years, NCB will work in four regions namely Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura. Proposals are being made to make new regional offices at Agartala in Tripura and Pasighat/LowerSiang in Arunachal Pradesh. In addition, zonal offices are also being proposed at New Jalpaiguri for better coverage of the adjoining Sikkim areas,” Shah said.

The NCB has also conducted several special drives on enforcement activities across the country including in the northeastern region, which include identification and detention of top 100 drug traffickers.

Shah said drug trafficking is a borderless crime and to tackle it effectively better coordination not only among all drug law enforcement and intelligence agencies but among all the border area districts of all the northeastern states is necessary.

He said that over the years, under the firm leadership of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Home Affairs at the national level has ensured that the Anti-narcotics laws and rules are strictly implemented. At the same time, modern technology should be used in this and coordination should be established among all the agencies, he added.

The Home Minister said that the success of the strategy to destroy the supply network of narcotics in the country is very much visible in this short span of time. He said the seizure of narcotics after 2014 has proved it.

Shah informed that a total of 1257 cases were registered between 2006-2013 which increased by 152 percent to 3172 between 2014-2022. The total number of arrests during the same period increased by 260 percent to 4888 as against 1362. During 2006-2013, 1.52 lakh kg of drugs were seized which doubled to 3.30 lakh kg between 2014-2022. Drugs worth Rs 768 crore were seized during 2006-2013, which increased by 25 times to Rs 20,000 crore between 2014-2022.

He also asked to strengthen the Anti-Narcotics Task Force constituted in the states so that decisive action can be taken in the war against drugs. He said that appropriate measures should be taken to check the flow of money through a detailed investigation of the financial resources of drug trafficking and coordination among the banking authorities. Also, various provisions of the NDPS Act should be strictly implemented. The establishment of fast-track courts may also be considered to ensure speedy trial, Shah said.

He said the Ministry of Home Affairs has made continuous efforts to strengthen the institutional restructuring and legal provisions for narcotics as well. To make the government’s performance effective, the Modi government has given continuous emphasis on inter-departmental coordination under the ‘Whole of Government Approach, he said.

The Union Home Minister urged the Chief Ministers of all the Northeastern states present in the meeting to hold meetings regularly as well as to take it down to the bottom. He said that the investigation of drug-related cases should be done from source to destination so that the entire network can be destroyed.

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