Imphal: In what could be termed as a step forward in addressing an illicit drug case in Manipur, the Center has instructed the N Biren Singh-led government to take necessary action over the impending drug menace in the state, including the multi-crore drug haul case of Lukhosei Zou in 2018.
Responding to the public grievances on drug menace raised by the 3.5 Collective, a coalition concerned with the menace of drugs in Manipur, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah earlier, the home ministry’s Northeast Division issued a directive to the Chief Secretary of Manipur, Rajesh Kumar, on March 25. In the directive, deputy secretary NE(II) RK Pandey has asked the Manipur government that a suitable reply may be sent to the applicant directly.
It may be noted that in December 2020, Special Court NDPS acquitted the former Autonomous District Council Chandel chairman, Lukhosei Zou, from the multi-crore drug haul case of 2018 along with six others citing the failure of the prosecution to prove the allegation against them.
Throwing the attention of PM Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, the 3.5 Collective, in its letter, requested action to prevent the state from becoming the next Golden Triangle. They stated that for almost half a century, Manipur has been a transit point for illicit drugs from the infamous ‘Golden Triangle’ to India and beyond.
“In the last decade, the scenario has compounded with the en-mass cultivation of poppy in the hills and opening up of manufacturing units. The human, ecological, social, economic and political cost of the menace could be nothing but devastating,” the 3.5 Collective stated.
Citing the report of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India, entitled Magnitude of Substance Use, 2019, the 3.5 Collective stated that the tiny state of Manipur with a population of less than 0.4% of India has 14.22% current opioids users.
The teenagers and the youth are the most vulnerable and even adolescent girls are falling prey to drug abuse, making their future and that of their families grim. This degradation of the societal fabric can have far-reaching consequences, said Babloo Loitongbam, the convenor of the 3.5 Collective.
According to the 3.5 Collective statement, in almost all the hill districts in the state, poppy is cultivated en-mass with full knowledge and consent of the concerned authorities.
Even though the landholders can be booked under the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substance Act, 1985 (NDPS), not a single person has been arrested in connection with the poppy cultivation to date, it said.
While the area under poppy cultivation is expanding at an exponential rate, the threat of poppy cultivation is adversely affecting the ecological balance, as the cultivation is done at the cost of ever-increasing deforestation, excessive application of weedicides, pesticides, salination of soil and extensive use of chemical fertilisers, said the 3.5 Collective.
It further stated that apart from poppy cultivation, drug usage and trafficking also have a direct relationship to the dynamics of structural violence in the state.
The money earned by drug lords is leading to the deterioration of the societal fabric and has been giving rise to crime and economy of violence, it stated.
Its corrupting influences has weakened and corroded the vital institutions of the state, including the law enforcement agencies, the judiciary and the legislature, stated Loitongbam.
According to the 3.5 Collective, the role of drug money during the elections and formation of government is widely talked about amongst the public.
The illicit drug trafficking and narco-terrorism in Manipur have grown enormously in both sophistication and volume, and have undoubtedly emerged as a significant long-term security threat, not only for the north-eastern region but also the whole of India, it said.
The 3.5 Collective also stated that the Manipur State Policy on Psychoactive Substance, 2019, is rather weak on the ‘supply reduction’ component, which they termed as ironical, since, despite the magnitude of the problem, the state is yet to come out with a comprehensive rule under the NDPS Act, 1985.
It seems that the institutions are kept deliberately weak so that powerful operatives inside the state and non-state power structures can thrive from the illicit trade, claimed the 3.5 Collective in a statement.
Highlighting the multi-crore drug haul cases over the years in the state involving high-profile operatives, including social minster Okram Henry, Col Ajay Chaudhary, Seikholen Haokip, son of MLA TN Haokip, former ADC Chandel Chairman Lukhosei Zou, Ningkhangam Awungsi, Wungreingam Awungsi, and Kyaw Kyaw Niang, alias Abdul Rahim, of Kawhmu village, Myanmar, the 3.5 Collective said that none of the above accused is convicted till date.
Due to the repeated leniency shown to these accused high profiles, the general public of Manipur has lost faith in the system to curve the menace, it said.
When it comes to conviction, only the small fries involved are convicted by the court, while the drug lords or prime accused involved always managed to secure acquittal by using their links in the corridor of power, alleges the 3.5 Collective.
This suspicion is further strengthened when Lukhosei Zou, who was caught red-handed with a huge amount of narcotics from his official quarter, was summarily acquitted by the NDPS court vide its judgment order on 17 December 2020, it stated.
At the minimum, the government of Manipur should be persuaded to go for an appeal to the High Court against the judgment of 17 December 2020 in Special trial case no. 100 of 2018, it added.
The 3.5 Collective also requested the Center to do whatever is necessary to ensure that Manipur is saved from the clutches of the invisible, yet highly powerful drug cartel and prevent it from becoming the next Golden Triangle.