The Manipur government is taking the help of the Army and Assam Rifles to eliminate poppy cultivation in border areas as part of its war on drugs that also includes projects to wean away drug users, the chief minister has said.
"Thousands of hectares of land are used for poppy cultivation in areas near the international border with Myanmar," Chief Minister N Biren Singh told a group of visiting journalists recently.
The northeastern state, which is close to the infamous Golden Triangle in Southeast Asia known for drug trafficking, has been hit by drugs and a large number of HIV cases owing to intravenous drug usage.
Singh said poppy is exported to other countries via the Golden Triangle.
"We are taking help of the Army and Assam Rifles to root out the cultivation of poppy in Manipur," the chief minister said, adding that the poppy growers are being rehabilitated with lemon grass cultivation.
Lalboi, a poppy cultivator from Joupi village in the southern part of the state, said during an interaction with PTI at Kakchin town, that he along with many others in and around his village were engaged in poppy cultivation for livelihood.
Noting that there are around 150 poppy cultivators in his area, he said, "Assam Rifles is helping us with seeds and know-how in cultivating lemon grass so that we give up cultivation of poppy."
"It will take three to four years before we reap benefits from the cultivation of lemon grass," said Lalboi, 32, who has a family of five.
Lemon grass is a fragrant tropical grass which yields an oil that smells of lemon and is widely used in Asian cooking and in perfumery and medicine.
Singh, the chief minister, said the administration is also fighting the drug menace through other means, including a crackdown on drug peddlers.
He said 600 drug dealers have been arrested this year and fast track courts set up to try the accused.
The state government and the security forces have also initiated projects to wean away drug users from the addiction, he said.
"The happy news is people are getting involved in countering drug peddling," Singh said.
He said that at Lilong in Thoubal district drug peddlers were captured and the seized drugs were burnt.
The All Lilong Anti-Drug Association (ALADA) has helped in seizing drugs worth over Rs 6 crore since it was set up in July 2017, its tribe secretary Abid Hussain claimed.
He said while drugs like spasmoproxival, N10 come from within the country, heroin and World is Yours (WY) are brought in from Myanmar by the peddlers.
"These drugs are widely used in Manipur and other states in the north-east," Hussain said.
Very poor economic condition, lack of job opportunities and easy availability of drugs lead to the high number of drug addicts, he said.
At Lilong, which has a one-lakh population, the ALADA has identified 2,000 users though the actual number may be higher, he said.
Sister Veronica, who runs rehabilitation centre 'Sneha' for women drug addicts, said there are 11 women at present at its residential facility.
(With inputs from agencies.)