Strife-Torn Manipur Grapples With Illicit Poppy Cultivation, Youth Addiction

Strife-Torn Manipur Grapples With Illicit Poppy Cultivation, Youth Addiction

Rise in illicit poppy cultivation, which has majorly impacted villagers and farmers from the Kuki community, has greatly impacted in the state becoming the hub for student drug addiction.

Megha ChowdhuryUpdated: Wednesday, August 23, 2023, 12:44 AM IST
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“In the last few years, Manipur has seen an unprecedented rise in illicit cultivation of poppy, locally known as kaani, which has taken over the hilly regions of the state, populated mostly by the Kuki Community,” with Dr Shonkholen Mate, President of the Kuki Student Organisation (KSO) told the Free Press Journal in Mumbai.

Addressing the alarming surge in youth getting addicted to drugs in the conflict-ridden state, Dr Mate said, “In addition to exploiting the poor farmers and villagers from the Kuki community, many students are also hired in the paddy fields, exposing them to the psychological impacts of poppy seed agriculture.”

“Farmers are unable to resist the temptation of the large amount of money associated with the production of poppy seeds. Once someone starts cultivating poppy seeds, there's no turning back for them,” Dr. Mate says recalling his visit to one of Manipur's paddy fields.

Despite the widely publicised "War on Drugs" initiative launched in 2018, the government has not been able to curb drug smuggling in the state. 

“Drug lords of Metie community lure tribal villagers of Kuki community into poppy cultivation because most Kukis are agriculturalists and land is readily available to them, making it easier to cultivate poppy with other crops. However, the final profits are not shared with them and are instead retained by the factory owners and Metei community,” Dr Mate explained.

Rise in illicit poppy cultivation, which has majorly impacted villagers and farmers from the Kuki community, has greatly impacted in the state becoming the hub for student drug addiction.

Holding prevalent poverty responsible for being the driving force to cultivate poppy seeds in rural villages, Dr Mate said, “The cultivation of food crops alone was insufficient in meeting the needs of rural tribal households. Under these conditions, people struggle to survive and vie for a better source of income. The biggest impact of this drug menace has been on students and youth,” stated Dr. Mate. 

On May 8, when Imphal was reeling under curfew in the aftermath of the May 3 violence, the Narcotics and Affairs of Border (NAB) — a specialized unit of the State police — seized 77 gunny bags, suspected to contain poppy seeds, and 120 kyat, Myanmar’s currency.

According to data from the state's special anti-drugs unit Narcotics and Affairs of Border (NAB), the scale of poppy cultivation in Manipur has spread across 15,400 acres of land in the hills between 2017 and 2023.

Listing steps to curb drug trafficking in Manipur, the Home Ministry told the Rajya Sabha on August 2, 2023 that over 17,000 acres of opium poppy fields in Manipur were destroyed between 2018 and May 2023 by NAB . 

In March 2023, a recently-formed students’ anti-drug task force in Manipur along with All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) organised a bike rally to engage the student community in its campaign against drug abuse and poppy cultivation and endorse the ongoing war on drugs launched by the BJP-led state government.

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