Updated 28 Dec 2021, 5:47 am
The Manipur Police department appears to be on a relentless drive against the long prevalence of drug menace in the state. Seizures of drugs are being frequently reported and several poppy fields across the state have been destroyed in the past years as a part of the Biren Singh-led state government ‘war on drugs’. This year, police have detected more poppy cultivation areas and destroyed more number of poppy fields. However, officials have hailed it as an achievement and a sign towards the end of poppy cultivation in the state. But it also points to the extensive and massive poppy cultivation being carried out unchecked in the state for long years.
Speaking to the Imphal Free Press, Superintendent of Police, Narcotics and Affairs of Border (NAB) K Meghachandra said the increasing rate of poppy plant destruction does not mean that the practice and coverage of poppy cultivation have increased. More and more poppy fields are being detected as the government survey was started earlier this year, since September in collaboration with district police, he said.
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From last year till April/May 2021, about 4,634 acres of poppy cultivation areas were destroyed by NAB in collaboration with respective district police stations of the area, he mentioned. As for the survey this year, about 6,000 acres of poppy cultivated areas were detected till December, he added.
“Increasing discovery of poppy cultivation areas does not mean that cultivation has increased but it is the achievement of the survey team. Starting from September 2021, the team conducted the survey in far flung places located in the interior of the hills districts, and large portions of areas which were not detected earlier were found,” said Meghachandra, when asked about the areas under poppy cultivation that are being destroyed in the state.
He said unlike last year, the destruction of poppy plantations began in October, a time when the poppy plants are yet to become fully mature in their growth. The destruction drive was conducted at the areas of Nongpok Keithelmanbi, Churachandpur, Senapati, Chandel, Ukhrul and some other hill districts. This is why the coverage area of poppy destruction has increased this year compared to the previous year, he added.
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In support of the government’s ‘war on drugs’, representatives from 33 communities in the state took a pledge to end poppy cultivation on February 25 under the banner, ‘All Communities Convention for a Pledge against Illegal Poppy Plantation’.
In order to motivate the public to give up poppy farming, Chief Minister N Biren Singh had announced a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh for drug-free Peh village in Ukhrul as a token of appreciation for destroying poppy cultivation in the areas under the jurisdiction of the village. Peh village, which is located about 30 km north of Ukhrul HQ, destroyed poppy plantation without the support from the state forces in February. The villagers voluntarily destroyed the poppy field in their village with the aim to save the society from the ills of drugs, they said.
"We did not destroy the illegal poppy cultivation to collect rewards from the government but to save the society from drugs," village chairman of Paoyi (Peh), Shangreihan Khare had said.
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Under the state government’s scheme, ‘Cultivation of horticulture crops as an alternative to poppy cultivation’, Manipur Organic Mission Agency (MOMA) under the department of Horticulture had distributed alternative crops to the farmers of Peh.
Project director, MOMA, K Debadutta Sharma told the Imphal Free Press that farmers get huge returns from poppy cultivation and therefore, farmers of hilly regions opt for poppy cultivation. For their welfare and as a suitable and alternative to poppy farming, the state government started to provide various crops, including avocado (butter fruit), low chill apple (a variety of apple that suits low chill climatic condition), berries, dragon fruits and others. The department also distributed crops that could be harvested in short, medium and long term after considering the livelihood of the farmers of hill districts, he added.
Citing an example, he said that a farmer can get a return of about Rs 12 lakh per hectare in a year with dragon fruit cultivation, while one can get a return of Rs 15 lakh with blue berries. Persimmon fruit is also introduced including avocado and they could get a gross income of not less than Rs 8 lakh. These fruits are considered for long term cultivation, and short term crops are also provided to generate regular income, he added.
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The project director said the assistance was also given to the villagers of Joujangtek, Tamenglong district under the same government scheme.
Under the ‘cultivation of horticulture crops as an alternative to poppy cultivation’ scheme, a sum of Rs 50 lakh has been provided to each agriculture unit, and the scheme was first introduced in Peh village under Ukhrul district for the year 2021-22, he mentioned.
Alternative crops are given to the farmers according to the agro-climatic condition of the place, Debadutta further said.
When asked about the success of the scheme so far, Debadutta told the Imphal Free Press, “It will take time to claim that the ‘Alternative to Poppy Cultivation Scheme’ has become successful as it will take three to four years for crops to become sustainable. However, the scheme is becoming successful in the present scenario.”
He further said that from time to time, the farmers are also provided awareness programmes on scientific and organic based farming. He said the government is also planning to provide the same scheme to the farmers in three different districts in the coming years.
Debadutta said the state government is aiming to replace poppy cultivation with other alternative crops. However, it will take time to change the mindset of the farmers to give up poppy cultivators and switch to other crops. “The scheme is an indirect approach to replace and to demoralise poppy cultivation among the farmers,” he added.
Responding to a query, Debadutta told the Imphal Free Press that due to limited funds from the state government and lack of manpower, mass awareness programmes against poppy plantations could not be organised. He said the work cannot be undertaken by the state alone but initiatives from the public are also needed to fight the drugs menace.
He suggested the poppy cultivators to take up sustainable means of livelihood that are accepted by each section of the society. If the production of a particular crop harms a community or society at large, then it is a big crime against humanity, he remarked.
Debadutta asserted that each citizen is responsible for the wellbeing of the society and in improving the economy of a state by producing better crops and food products.
First published:25 Dec 2021, 5:47 pm
war on drugspoppy cultivationpoppy fieldsdrugs menace
IFP reporter, IMPHAL, Manipur