Ralan: Amid the battle against novel coronavirus aka COVID-19, Nagaland’s Wokha district faces a big challenge over illegal drug-peddling activities along the state’s border with Assam. Drug users frequently cross the porous inter-state borders posing a possible threat as carriers of the deadly virus.
However, despite the challenges, the local community and the district administration have joined hands to control such illegal activities while ensuring that drug users receive treatment for any withdrawal symptoms.
“Bhandari constituency is one the largest constituencies in Nagaland with 76 villages. The entire border of Wokha district with Assam falls under Bhandari subdivision. In order to ensure the coordination of all villages in fighting the pandemic, we realised the need to have a proper containment plan which includes the contribution of all sections of the community,” said Mmhonlumo Kikon, adviser of science & technology, IT, NRE.
Kikon recounted how a control room was created in Bhandari to keep in direct contact with all village councils, civil societies, police, medical personnel and the administration within the sub-division.
“It also acts as a centre where all complaints, submissions of the villages are made,” he said. With the growing number of COVID-19 positive cases in the neighbouring villages of Assam which is just 1-2 km from the border, Kikon said that fear was created in the minds of locals as drug users were illegally crossing the border, becoming a possible carrier of the virus.
“The border had to be totally sealed. But despite the sealing, drug users were avoiding the check gates since the border is porous. So, we re-strategised our containment plan by actively engaging the village community by entrusting them to ensure that no drug-addict goes out of the village to cross the border and to effectively implement the lockdown,” Kikon added.
The legislator said that when five positive cases were detected in the immediate neighbourhood in Assam near Merapani, the government of Assam also ensured the lockdown and sealed the inter-state border.
“While we are doing our job, the Assam government’s move also helped us in the containment. We apprehended some drug users who crossed the border and put them on facility quarantine and in the meantime, asked the CMO to intervene for necessary assistance,” he said.
Over 1,000 drug addicts in just two towns under Wokha
He revealed that a recent data received from the health department showed that in Baghty town alone, 555 addicts were recorded and in Bhandari, there were 624 of such users. “I have asked the CMO to verify the information on ground and accordingly, we will seek the help of the localities in which these people stay to ensure that proper rehabilitation and proper medication is provided,” Kikon said.
While the drug addicts who illegally cross border could become a threat to the community as carriers of the virus, he said that to avoid any eventuality, five persons were put on quarantine at the Bhandari NAP hospital.
“After the 14 day quarantine period, these persons were found to be asymptomatic of the virus but were suffering from withdrawal symptoms. So, we understood that we require the help of experts of drug de-addiction and rehabilitation and have asked the chief medical officer (CMO) to provide support accordingly,” he added.
To control the movement of drug users, the local communities are also assisting the frontline workers in manning the check gates within the localities, he informed.
“The entire world was not prepared for the pandemic but when it happened, we had to learn fast and prepare ourselves. What we initially did was ensured that all necessary protocols—of maintaining social distance, practicing hand hygiene and use of face masks—are being followed,” Kikon said.
He said that to facilitate the smooth transport of essential commodities to the villages, the motorable roads were also repaired. Despite sufficient police deployment along the border, the control room has been coordinating with the village leaders to ensure all that the border is sealed in totality. All frontline workers at Ralan and Bhandari were also provided with safety equipment—thermal scanner, PPE of medical grade.
During a visit to the Ralan area along the inter-state border on Saturday, Kikon said that the local communities have expressed concern of drug users who may become carriers of COVID-19 after crossing the borders.
“We enlightened them that the government has been supporting NGOs who deals with the drug addict rehabilitation centres and de-addiction programmes, and advised them to get in touch with these NGOs through the CMO,” he said.
Kikon stressed that the state government is on a war footing and geared up all possible resources to fight the pandemic. While legislators are duty-bound to respond to their respective constituencies, he said that the elected representatives’ shares equal responsibility towards the state government. He said that the war room has integrated the working of all legislators, departments under various committees to monitor and assess the overall preparedness and that the recommendations are addressed for the welfare of the people.
Difficulty in maintaining lockdown at ‘disturbed area belt’
Meyazungba Jamir, SDO civil and border magistrate at Ralan, said that since there is no demarcation under Ralan sub-division, maintaining a strict lockdown in the area is a “difficulty” as 12 villages in the plains area are surrounded by Assam villages.
“To control these areas is a difficulty since it falls under the disturbed area belt (DAB),” he said.
However, to control the illegal activities of drug peddlers in the border, he said that with the help of villages, the drug addicts who go missing from their homes are reported and are put on quarantine.
He added that on completion of the quarantine period, a “bond agreement” is signed to ensure that such illegal activity does not happen. Without a stationed doctor, he said that the nurses are managing the quarantine centres and so far, seven persons are quarantined in the facility.
Sufficient police deployment at border
As reported earlier, deputy chief minster Y Patton revealed that a sufficient number of police personnel have been deployed along the border and that check gates have been set up at various points along the border.
Adding to this, the officer in-charge at Ralan told media persons that nearly 80 police and security force personnel in total are deployed along the border during a six hour duty detail on rotation basis. He also informed that so far there is no law and order situation along the border at Ralan area.