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Even After Leaving Aside the Current Controversy, Manipur’s War on Drugs is Being Waged on a False Premise

Even if intents are good, if the strategy is not well conceived or the vision lacks depth and spread, the execution of the plan is unlikely to be ever successful. This seems to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, area of shortfall in Manipur’s own war against drugs. The other of course is the other endemic disease of Manipur’s officialdom – corruption. The latter is even more acute in this case, for narcotic drugs trafficking is a multi-crore market, and corruption’s ultimate reward is filthy lucre. We are currently witnessing all these dark attributes of the drugs trade unfolding before our eyes, thanks to the high-profile case of a politicians arrested with several crores worth of No.4 grade heroine powder and a huge quantity of meth tablets, more popularly known as World is Yours, WY, tablets. As the controversy unfolds, it does seem there is much more than meets the eye, and now names of people high up in the power corridors of the government, including the chief minister, N. Biren, are implicated, rightly or wrongly, in this sordid drama.

But first the larger canvas of the narcotic drugs menace. No points for guessing that this is a worldwide phenomenon, and in fact, a good analogy would be the COVID-19 pandemic. It has come to be the scourge of every country and every society in the world, some acutely afflicted and others a little better. Reminding ourselves of this picture will be helpful, for like the COVID pandemic, this war has to be also fought on many fronts. Very broadly, the battle will have to be with both the local narcotics cartels, and at the global arena with bigger cartels and syndicates. The first will be almost entirely the state government’s responsibility and the second will have to be in coordination with other states and nations facing the same or similar problem. At the global level the turnover of this illicit trade is estimated to be about 100 billion dollars, or about Rs. 7.5 lakh crores. Manipur’s drugs market, judging from the catches by police and customs annually, perhaps is worth about Rs. 50 to Rs. 100 crores. At the global level, there are several major narcotics producing regions and these are wherever poppy, coca or marijuana grow in abundance, and the hold of the law of the land on its people are loose. The nearest of these regions to us is what is often referred to as the Golden Triangle, a place where the Mekong river branches out dividing Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.  There is also the Golden Crescent spreading across parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Andean regions in Latin America spanning over Mexico, Columbia, Bolivia and Peru is another region with narcotics producing notoriety. And now, not only are the organic drugs, but synthetic ones, like meth (short for Methamphetamine), for which the Andean region is again infamous are ravaging the world. In short, we are faced with a huge problem made even more complex because of globalisation. Hence, as in the COVID pandemic, we have to strive to keep Manipur green, but also keep a watch on bigger global arena and players too.

We must also keep in mind that the war on drugs cannot be treated entirely as a law and order problem, as the state seems to be for it is also very much a social problem. Indeed, simply treating this as a law and order problem would be akin to mistaking the symptoms of a disease for the disease itself, therefore condemning a conclusively answer to the problem to remain elusive. This being so, together with the policing strategies to tackle immediate trafficking issues, there must also be a larger and longer term drive to uplift the condition of our society. Our dysfunctional government schools and higher education institutions must be made to deliver so that our youth emerge from them with appropriate knowledge and skills fit to meet the challenges of the present era. Corruption in the officialdom must be put an end to abruptly. Bribery in government job recruitments and promotions must end so as to ensure the best and most committed amongst those already employed are rewarded and given the responsibility to run the government’s different organs. For the younger generation, end of official corruption would uplift their morale and give them the reason to believe hard work and diligence will ultimately earn them respectable well-heeled positions in society. At this moment this is beyond sight, and our youth are left in a quandary. For one the quality of the educational degrees they earn are no certificate to success. For another, youth especially of parents who do not have the means to pay bribes, are left with little hope of ever climbing the social ladder. The dejection, disappointment and abject hopelessness would also be a big factor in their becoming prone to drug addiction. Hence, more than mere policing, giving back to our youth the aspiration, agency and means to make their individual marks in society, would be the strongest fortress to protect them from the drugs temptations. More than policing, which is also indeed necessary, this will be the more challenging mission, and to accomplish it, we need to have people at the helm of the government who are not only sincere, but also gifted with enlightened vision and a steely commitment. Sadly, Manipur has failed miserably in this area, and with the prevalent political culture all around, this is unlikely to change in the near future.

As for the current explosive developments, there are plenty happening, some grave and some frivolous. The gravest of all, is the charge by a firebrand MPS officer known for her commitment to work, that high ranking leaders of the state, including the chief minister were trying to have the charges against a politician arrested allegedly in possession of a huge cache of contraband drugs, dropped. This was not in any ordinary statement made to the press or anybody, but a sworn affidavit to the highest court in the state, the Manipur High Court, in a response to a contempt of court case against the officer. The contempt case is another matter, but the charges made at this level needs to be thoroughly investigated by the country’s highest level, independent investigator, and the entire truth behind the charges established beyond any reasonable doubt. The other matter relates to the trial the arrested man is undergoing. Here too, like it or not, what we should be looking for is procedural justice not any other. Allowing this civilisational jurisprudence to be disrupted will be a precedent which can be predicted to spell chaos in the future, just as the rupturing of established norms in the Assembly has done the state much harm. The current controversy over the Uttar Pradesh fake encounter killing of notorious gangster, Vikas Dubey, should serve as an example. There would be many who felt a sense of justice at the killing of gangster who has over 80 criminal cases against him and is known for having murdered many, including eight policemen recently. But the condemnation against it is for the same reason that bypassing procedural justice defined by liberal jurisprudence, will ultimately be at civilisation’s peril. We must also desist from any lynch mob mentality even while dealing with the most notorious criminal and insist on procedural justice defined by liberal jurisprudence. What the public should be doing in the present case is also to urge and pressure the court to deliver justice quickly as per established law and not short circuit it.

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