The jets came finally and it was the celebrated Rafale jets, but not for the purpose we were expecting. The Rafale jets were scrambled from a nearby base after an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) was sighted in the Imphal airspace just above the Bir Tikendrajit International Airport. It was not shot down as the UFO lingered for hours and the next day also. Some forces seem to have tried shooting at the object, as reports claim. The object is yet to be identified and concerned authorities are tight-lipped as conspiracy theories abound.
Maybe, it could have been something like a Chinese balloon which was shot down in American airspace. Anyway, it is the concern of the Defence establishment. We had rather expected the jets for destroying poppy fields in the state, which is still not coming. Nobody knows whether the survey of poppy plantations this season by state and central agencies had been completed or not.
A few weeks ago, the Chief Minister N Biren Singh had disclosed to a group of senior journalists that the survey is almost complete and that in Churachandpur a sizeable increase in poppy plantation had been detected.
Following a series of reported assurance given by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Chief Minister N Biren Singh on October 6 said on the sidelines of a function that destruction of poppy plantations using Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopters would start after a survey of poppy plantation areas is completed. But, still no word on whether the survey had been completed or not and when could the people expect destruction of the ripe poppy pods.
Now, the question has again come up as to when will the destruction of poppy fields (of course, before it is harvested) begin. Something is in the wind, of that every stakeholder is sure. The idea of destroying poppy fields before harvest is to cut the revenue stream of the cartel bosses and to discourage any future effort to resort to poppy plantation again in the hills of Manipur.
If they manage to harvest the poppy fields it is victory for the bosses who will again ignite the unrest to extract a pound of flesh from both the Centre and the state government. Some reports of law enforcement agencies including security forces destroying poppy fields in Ukhrul district is seen in the airwaves as well as in the media. But, jets or not, people are expecting the agencies to move over to Churachandpur, where it is ripe and ready to be harvested.
What is holding back the agencies in doing what it should be doing? The major concentration of poppy fields is in Churachandpur and Kangpokpi district. So, until and unless the destruction of fields start in these districts, nobody will believe that the state is serious about wiping out the narco-business from the state.
In mid-September, a delegation of the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity (COCOMI), an umbrella body of civil society organisations based in the Imphal valley, met Rajnath Singh at his official residence in New Delhi and briefed him about narco-terrorism.
And Rajnath Singh reportedly assured the delegation that the central government would use IAF planes to destroy poppy fields in Manipur if the state government were to approach it for the same, according to the media briefing given by COCOMI. A few days later, a few MLAs who were camping in New Delhi to seek an audience with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the Defence Minister who denied saying anything about using IAF planes to destroy poppy fields and the matter was laid to rest although there was a flutter in the social media.