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Illegal opium trade thrives across Arunachal Pradesh

Published : Nov 20, 2017, 3:10 am IST
Updated : Nov 20, 2017, 3:12 am IST

It is significant then that Arunachal Pradesh tops the list of states with illegal poppy cultivation.

Opium plants
 Opium plants

Guwahati: The flourishing illegal opium cultivation in eastern Arunachal Pradesh has become a major area of concern for security agencies, with the state government miserably failing to tackle this menace. The drug mafia, with some help from Naga rebels, continues to call the shots in the frontier state, where people are reluctant to give up the practice of poppy farming in absence of any alternative for their economical survival.

The recent arrest of seven persons, allegedly for possessing and peddling drugs from Pasighat and Oyan, is the latest indication of the growing network of the drug mafia in the state.

It is significant then that Arunachal Pradesh tops the list of states with illegal poppy cultivation.

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in its last report of 2015 claims to have destroyed poppy fields spread over 399 acres in eastern Arunachal Pradesh.

But as per NGOs, the state still has around 10,000 hectares of opium fields and the annual yield of opium is around 100 tonnes, an average of 10 kg a hectare.

For NCB, opium cultivation in eastern Arunachal Pradesh has become an eyesore. Despite regular destruction of poppy fields by the authorities, a large section of people are still not ready to give up the practice. This is a huge challenge in the fight against drug smuggling.

Pointing out that the state government has failed to counter this menace, the authorities said that in a bid to discourage people from poppy cultivation the state government will have to provide other  job avenues.

Nearly all the 266 villages in Anjaw district and 222 villages in Lohit district in East Arunachal Pradesh cultivate opium.

According to the bureau officials, apart from Lohit and Anjaw districts, which share borders with Myanmar and China, there are reports of poppy cultivation from Changlang, Longding, Upper Siang and Tirap districts too.

“So far, there has been no indication that the extracted opium from the poppy pods is refined into heroin in India. This implies that it is being smuggled to Myanmar, which is one of the largest heroin producers in South East Asia,” an NCB official said.

It may be noted here that people in Lohit Valley have cultivated opium for centuries for consumption and for use in rituals and medicines.

Due to geographical proximity to the ‘golden triangle’ of Myanmar, Lao PDR and Thailand, infamous for opium and heroin production and their trafficking, security agencies are worried that the frontier state, which has a favourable climate for poppy cultivation, is like an extension of the international drug mafia.

People in Arunachal Pradesh extract opium in a unique way by lancing poppy pods with blades and collecting the viscous fluid on a fabric made of nettles.

The bureau has been using satellite imagery of Advanced Data Processing Research Institute, Secunderabad to spot poppy fields in Arunachal.  

Referring to the year 2015-16, sources in the NCB said, “When our team went to Arunachal Pradesh to destroy poppy fields, noticing the same in satellite imagery, we had to pull back as we were attacked by locals.”

An NCB sleuth, involved in destruction of poppy fields in 2015, said, “We not only noticed involvement of outsiders in poppy cultivation in Arunachal, but also spotted Naga insurgents guarding the poppy field.”

Tags: naga rebels, opium plants
Location: India, Assam, Guwahati (Gauhati)