Regional Strategy The Need Of The Hour To Curb The Drug Menace In The North East

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It is not very well known in the rest of the country that the drug menace is as serious a problem in the whole of north east as in Punjab, and that the porous border of North East with Myanmar and Bangladesh , its proximity to the “golden triangle” encompassing Myanmar and Thailand makes it an ideal conduit for smuggling drugs to all over the East and Northern India. Even a cursory look at the news items in last March and in this month about seized drugs carried in regional media as summarised below would convince anyone of the gravity of the situation which warrants central intervention and strong action at the regional and state level.

It appears that standard practice of drug smugglers is to put Heroine in soap boxes for easy transport by all means of transport and especially the two or three wheelers. The Assam police apprehended two such smugglers in Hojai with 60 soap boxes containing 760 grams of heroine on 23rd March and also one person with 48 such boxes and 63 grams at Atgaon; and on the very next day near Assam Bengal border on National Highway 70 bags full of hemp- Ganja in local parlance were seized. All these are certain to fetch anywhere between Rs 6-7 crores in the underground market. The frequency of seizure of Heroine, Cocaine and Brown sugar, the location of such seizures seizures along Silchar- Jiribam-Imphal-Numaligarh, Tezpur, Guwahati , Shillong and upto border with West Bengal indicate first, that several inter state gangs of the North East are involved having links with Myanmar and Thailand and even Bangladesh based drug smugglers are involved; and second, that the North East is also a conduit for smuggling of drugs to other parts of the country as well. It is thus a part of the infamous international drug Syndicate.

On last Thursday, 4 th April the Assam police arrested a Naga woman and two Naga drug smugglers at Barlengeri on Assam Nagaland border with 400 grams of heroine in 30 soap boxes worth Rs 3 crore procured from Senapati district of Manipur which might have been snuggled from Myanmar Thailand region or the infamous “golden triangle” of movement of drugs. In February last two smugglers were arrested in Hojai in possession of 710 grams of heroine and at Morigaon, not too far from the state capital Dispur, the police shot a smuggler carrying 573 grams of drugs worth Rs 4 .5 crores brought from Manipur to Dimapur and thence to Jagi Road in Morigaon district which confirms the route the drug smugglers take and their outreach which is worrying. In fact at least twice in a week somewhere in Assam and usually along Assam’s borders with other north east states and West Bengal, the Assam police may have an encounter with the drug smugglers which shows the inter state ramifications of the menace. This has been a regular feature in Assam for quite some time, and though the media coverage of drug smuggling has been regular and the public outrage it caused was widespread as noticed in the case of killing of a student leader in Jorhat in last year by a group of drug traffickers one of whom was shot dead by the police while making an attempt to escape from police custody it is yet to generate a state wide demand for an action program to stamp out the menace. Even in the region as a whole drug menace hasn’t been recognised as a regional problem even when it is recognised that north east is a conduit for smuggling of drugs to other parts of the country through the region’s porous border with Myanmar and Bangladesh. However public protest demanding strong action to stamp out the menace has been a regular feature of Assam as witnessed recently at Chhaya gaon against drug mafia; and in the last two months the number of occasions when the police had to open fire to apprehend inter state gangs of drug smugglers has increased significantly which indicates the seriousness of the problem.

The frequency of seizure of Heroine and deadly Wy tablets along Assam’s borders with Manipur and Nagaland carry evidence to prove that drugs are not produced only in Myanmar Thailand border regions but also in Manipur as it has over 60 000 drug addicts which generates a huge demand and thereby makes transborder smuggling to Assam and other parts of India especially Bihar lucrative because as in Manipur ban on sale of liquor in Bihar must have created a huge demand for drugs. Nothing else could explain the massive increase in drug smuggling in the last two years and frequency of use of Assam Manipur-Nagaland border by the smugglers which is reflected in the huge increase of drug seizures along Assam’s borders with Bengal and Bhutan. The link of drug trafficking with financing of North East insurgents operating from Myanmar and elsewhere across the border is by now well known ,and must be seen as a part of the game plan of our adversaries to destabilize the North East.

A clear regional picture of the drug menace is not emerging because of absence of a data base and synergy in action of the north east states and West Bengal and Bihar even when the resources of the north east states have already been stretched . It appears that as it is seen as a” law and order ” issue-a state subject” there is no compulsion to adopt a regional strategy and action program including treatment and rehabilitation of addicts by setting up of de addiction centers even when there is ample need for the same in all North East states. However perusal of the objects and reasons for enactment of a comprehensive law- Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act 1985 by the Union Government suggest that a coordinated approach involving the state, regional and central agencies is implicit in this law: As for instance the ” possession of a commercial quantity of cannabis is punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term that shall not be less than 10 years but which may extend to 20 years under this Act flows from its substantive provisions which prohibit ” production, manufacturing, cultivation, possession, sale, purchase, transport, storage and or consumption of any narcotic drugs or psychotropic substance”.
A regional strategy to deal with the drug menace would appear to be only way given the North East region’s porous international and inter state borders and proximity with drug war lords operating in the ” golden triangle”. This appears to be well within the ” regional planning mandate of the North Eastern Council and the DONER -Ministry in charge of Development of the north eastern region. And it would require cooperation with West Bengal, Bihar and even Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh for destruction of the drug supply chain already in place. It’s time to act.

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