Survey finds poppy hotbeds in Arunachal

Guwahati, Feb. 14: A survey by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has identified six districts in Arunachal Pradesh most affected by illicit poppy cultivation.

The survey, which was conducted between the last week of January and February 10, found widespread cultivation of opium in Longding, Tirap, Upper Siang, Changlang, Lohit and Anjaw districts.

NCB's zonal director Madho Singh today said the survey was carried out with the help of satellite images and ground survey. "We are also conducting a similar survey in Manipur. Three districts in the state, Senapati, Ukhrul and Churachandpur, have already been covered."

"During the survey, illicit cultivation of poppy was found in small and isolated patches in the remote areas of the affected districts," he said.

But there has been a marginal reduction in opium cultivation in Arunachal Pradesh this year because of co-ordinated operations carried out by government enforcement agencies, Singh said, adding that those involved in illegal cannabis cultivation would be dealt with firmly.

He said the NCB would launch an awareness drive next month to motivate farmers engaged in opium cultivation in Tirap district of Arunachal Pradesh to switch over to alternative crops like cardamom, oranges, apples besides other cash and staple crops.

"The NCB in co-ordination with police, CRPF and district administration destroyed 85 acres of illicit poppy cultivation in Wakka, Longding and Pongchau circles in Longding district of Arunachal Pradesh on February 8 and 9," Singh said.

He said it becomes very difficult to arrest the cultivators since most of the illegal cultivation is on forestland.

In many parts of Arunachal Pradesh, villagers cultivate opium on a commercial scale since it involves huge money in a short period of time.

Cannabis is grown on a largescale in the interior and inaccessible areas of Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur. Since most of these plantations are tucked away in hills and forests, government agencies have a tough time destroying these.

Some of these plantations are in areas infested by rebel outfits. As such, they are not deemed safe by the bureau for carrying out operations without adequate security, which is not always readily available.

The NCB zonal director said they have also sensitised ground-level officials of the police, forest and revenue departments and asked them to collect intelligence about opium cultivation in the remote and interior areas of the state.

Another cause of serious concern is the rampant opiate addiction among the people in these areas.

In September last year, the NCB destroyed cannabis (ganja) crops spread across 109 hectares in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Destroying cannabis and poppy farms in Manipur and Arunachal Pardesh is also difficult because of stiff public resistance, mostly from the women, for whom it is a source of livelihood.

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