The state government of Manipur led by Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) in Manipur coined a catchy slogan, “War on Drugs” after it was installed with the clear objective of showing to the public that BJP is different in its conviction to stop illegal drug trade. There were allegations against the Congress Party during election campaign blaming party leaders for being complicit in drug trade. In 2013, Okram Henry Singh, a nephew of the then Congress Chief Minister, Okram Ibobi Singh, was alleged to be involved in a drug smuggling case. A huge consignment of illegal drugs alleged to be connected with Henry was seized at Imphal airport. Since then, Okram Henry Singh contested election in 2017 on a Congress ticket and got elected. The case of drug seizure where Okram Henry was allegedly involved was handed over to CBI by the Congress government in order to ensure a free and fair investigation. Subsequently, Henry was charge-sheeted in the NDPS Court. The trial of Okram Henry Singh, MLA has been going on for quite some time in the court.
Now, after three and a half year, both the Chief Minister N. Biren Singh, and Minister Th. Bishwajit Singh, find no fault with Henry who had voted in favour of BJP candidate at the last Rajya Sabha election. He also resigned from Congress Party, membership of Assembly and joined BJP by going to Delhi with Chief Minister in a chartered flight. Henry was welcomed in the family of BJP by none other than National General Secretary of the BJP, Ram Madhav. What will happen to the image of BJP when it welcomes Henry, who has been charge-sheeted in NDPS court? Will people of Manipur look at BJP as a party which is against drug trafficking?
In a news report published in Indian Express on the 26th November, 2014, the headlines read: Saradha scam: Assam ex-minister Himanta Biswa Sarma appears before CBI. The CBI had in August this year searched the residence of Sarma in connection with the Saradha scandal. (Source: https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/saradha-scam-assam-ex-minister-himanta-biswa-sarma-appears-before-cbi/). Himanta Biswa Sarma joins BJP on 28th August, 2015 after leaving Congress. Now, he is the trouble shooter of BJP and convener of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a baby of BJP to bring alliance among regional parties in the north east.
After the BJP formed a government in Manipur after the general election in 2017, MLAs, councillors, district council members, etc. joined BJP leaving Congress Party. Who does not want to be near power? Who will dare to touch someone close to powerful people? Lhukhosei Zou, member ADC, Chandel too left Congress to join BJP. In a search operation of Narcotics and Affairs of Border of Manipur in the quarter of Zou on the 19th June, 2018, drugs worth about Rs.28 crore and cash, Rs.57,18,000 , Rs 95,000 in old currency notes and several other incriminating articles were seized. In the affidavit filed by Th. Brinda, then Additional SP, who was in charge of the case against the drug seizure case of Lhukhosei Zou, before the Manipur High Court, it was revealed that there were efforts by BJP leaders to let off Zou after the arrest and withdraw charge sheet against Zou from the court of NDPS. Since the allegations against BJP leaders are sub-judice in the court, it is not proper to comment on the revelations and allegations by the police officer.
Again, the BJP government was caught on a wrong foot recently. It conferred the prestigious Chief Minister’s Gallantry Medal to one Sub-Inspector who was arrested earlier for being involved in a drug haul worth Rs.3 crore. After the All Manipur Students’ Union (AMSU) revealed the involvement of the said Sub-Inspector, the State Government withdrew the medal. The question bothering the public is whether the government was just careless or was the medal given for some other reasons. Inquiry has been ordered into the blunder.
Being frustrated with the failure of government to formulate and implement a comprehensive drug policy to prevent illegal drug trade, drug consumption and addiction and consequent evil effects on the health and future generation of the State, an NGO, USER (Users Society for Effective Response) Manipur, Paojel Chaoba (journalist) and Human Rights Alert (HRA) filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) before a division bench of Manipur High Court. One of the demands include handing over of drug haul cases of Rs.10 crore and above to CBI or NIA for investigation. On the 19th August, 2020, the High Court disposed the PIL by passing an order asking the petitioners to approach the State Government and Central Government with their prayers for formulation of a comprehensive drug policy and its implementation. Petitioners were given liberty to come back to the High Court if the authorities fail to meet the requirements of the petitioners.
Sincerity of the State Government of BJP in the state in its fight against the illegal drug trade is being questioned. Manipur Pradesh Congress Committee and some civil society organizations have demanded handing over of the case of Lhukhosei Zou to CBI for an impartial investigation and trial. Their demand has been fuelled and justified by the disclosure of police officer Brinda, who was in the thick of the investigation of the case. Transfer of the officer from the post of Additional SP, NAB to Police Head Quarter without assigning any works after the contempt of court case taken up by Manipur High Court will weaken the prosecution. It will be in the best interest of the prosecution to bring her back to NAB. In fact, NAB needs committed officers to make the programme of the government to succeed. Since the enemy in war on drugs is powerful and committed, the government needs to be fully committed to the objective of wiping out the menace of drugs. A correct step taken now will be like a stitch in time save nine. Timely action is called for the sake of younger generation.
The author is a retired IAS officer and former Chief Secretary, Manipur