We totally agree with Union Home Minister Amit Shah. While addressing a regional meeting on ‘Drug trafficking and national security’ attended by Chief Ministers and DGPs of the northeast region he said that seizure (of drugs) is not the mission to uproot, it is the mission. While asking the DGPs of the northeast states to work together Home Minister Amit Shah said that if drugs are seized from Manipur it doesn’t end there, you have to follow where it was meant to go and to whom. So very true.
Thanks to Amit Shah for reminding the top guys here that arrests or seizure is not the endgame and one needs to go further if we are really serious about eradicating or uprooting the drug menace from Manipur or Northeast or from India. Yet, something is missing. From where all these drugs are coming and who is controlling it or simply the source of all these drugs in the market passing through Manipur or the northeast?
The source and destination is very important in the supply chain with regard to drug business and one should not neglect either during investigation. Despite the missing component, there are several lessons to be learnt from the Union Minister’s speech.
First, we need to do away with the media blitzkrieg over arrests and seizures of drugs as it was sort of a rebuke from the Home Minister if we read between the lines. Ever since the second edition of the War on Drugs began, not a single day passes by without news of arrests of drug peddlers and smugglers besides the seizure of drugs worth crores of rupees by either the police or security forces. Many a times, police personnel were also caught red-handed with drugs and there are murmurs of the involvement of some police higher-ups in the drug trade.
In a bid to scale up the campaign against drug smuggling, the Chief Minister has even allowed forces like Manipur Rifles or IRB besides the regular police, specially designated units and wings to join in the anti-drug campaign. We can draw another lesson from Amit Shah’s speech with regard to training of public prosecutors dealing with the NDPS Act. He seems to understand that prosecutors are ill-equipped. Well, we had earlier raised the question of procedural lapses on the part of IOs in drug cases. How did Lhukhosei Zou get himself acquitted?
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Let us have a cursory look at the actual state of things regarding proper police procedure starting from arrests and seizure and investigation followed by prosecution in the court. Forget about lack of sincerity. What matters most is whether the right procedure as mandated by CrPC is followed at the time of arrests or seizure by investigating officers.
The Police SIs and in some cases the ASIs who act as Investigating Officers (IOs) are supposed to follow the Code, as conviction of any accused depends on proper investigation and due procedure. If there are lapses in investigation and procedure, prosecution is bound to fail. This is exactly why most prosecution cases relating to drugs are running short of conviction when they are put on trial. So, the lesson is not to muddy up the water. Too many cooks spoil the dish.
Decades ago, Manipur was just a transit point in drug smuggling originating from the infamous Golden Triangle, as it shares a 400 km long border with Myanmar. The Golden Triangle is an area where the borders of Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar meet at the confluence of the Ruak and Mekong rivers. The Golden Triangle is commonly used more broadly to refer to an area of approximately 950,000 square kilometres that overlaps the mountains of the three adjacent countries.
Three decades ago, this region produced more than 70 percent of all opium sold worldwide, most of it refined into heroin. Well, that is the basic background of the overall drug scenario. The widespread poppy plantations and the home-grown drug manufacturing units in Manipur did not develop overnight. There must certainly be patrons or powerful people behind the wide-spread poppy plantation just as there would be for the heavy traffic of drugs in recent times. As the Union Home Minister suggested, the state should rope in the services of Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Narcotic Control Bureau (NCB) for better results.