Itanagar: Opium trade, banned by the government, goes on unchecked in the districts of eastern Arunachal Pradesh where cultivation of poppy plants is widespread, causing concern to the authorities.
Changlang is one of the districts where poppy plants are cultivated extensively despite periodic raids by the district police and men of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).
After one such raid in which a large chunk of the poppy plantations was destroyed, the Union Home Ministry’s announced cash reward to the Changlang police. In Tirap, Lohit, Lower Dibang Valley and Anjaw districts, poppy cultivation similarly goes on unabated notwithstanding raids from time to time while illicit drugs, including brown sugar, from the infamous ‘Golden Triangle’ find their way there.
An NCB team and the state police last year destroyed 470 hectares of illicit poppy plantations and destroyed about 2,350 kg of raw opium under the leadership of SP Tume Amo in the Khimiyong circle of Changlang district.
At Roing, the headquarters of Lower Dibang Valley district, people smoke opium in public gatherings or functions.
A local panchayat leader Anjite Menjo said, “It’s a sign that opium is becoming a routine addiction. A few years back, such sights were rare in social gatherings.”
He said that within a span of five to six years, opium addiction in the district had grown drastically, to the extent that it was being sold openly in various pockets of Roing town like Cheta, Mayu, Intaya and Asali.
A 2010-11 survey by the Delhi-based Institute for Narcotics Studies and Analysis (INSA) has revealed an alarming situation on drug abuse in Lower Dibang Valley, besides Lohit, Anjaw, Changlang, Tirap and Upper Siang districts.
Menjo leads an organisation called ‘Dibang Anti Drug Campaign Committee’ which is spearheading a movement against drug addiction in the district.
In one such campaign on May 6 last, the committee with support from All Idu Mishmi Students Union (AIMSU) caught a drug peddler from Medo in Lohit district with 844 grams of opium on him.
AIMSU president Lokha Elapra said often drugs were delivered at the door step. The recent boom in opium trade in the eastern part of Arunachal Pradesh can be traced to early 1990s when the United Nation Drug Control Programme offered assistance to Myanmar to eradicate illicit opium production.
A ruthless anti-opium drive was launched by Myanmar in the northern provinces and as a direct upshot of this the opium cultivation shifted to the eastern borders of Arunachal Pradesh as demand grew from across the border.
The INSA in its survey found that there are around 3,460 hectares of land in Anjaw and 12,981 hectares land in Lohit which produces opium. It also disclosed that 186 villages out of a total 226 in Anjaw and 95 villages out of 232 in Lohit has opium as their main source of income.
The absolute control of wholesale trade by outside agencies is also one reason why poppy cultivation has got a boost as farmers no longer find growing cash crops like orange, maize, cardamom etc, high income yielding. Meanwhile, Lohit district deputy commissioner R K Sharma said they were going to start a massive awareness campaign to teach people the ill effects of opium use.
The district has cultivated opium for centuries for consumption and use in rituals and medicines. According to a rough estimate, the annual yield of opium is around 100 tonnes, an average of 10 kg a hectare.
The average addict in Arunachal Pradesh takes about three gms of opium a day, which is much more than what an addict consumes anywhere in the country.
Opium extracted from poppy plants is gathered onto a cloth made from sting nettles. A small piece, about 6 cm x 8 cm in size and weighing about 11.9 gm, is sold at Rs 200.About 6 gm of opium is obtained from it. (PTI)