[ Ranjit Sinha ]
The state government had allocated Rs 10 crore in the last budget for modernizing drug de-addiction centres across Arunachal Pradesh.
The budget session for the year 2018-19 is beginning from the first week of March, yet only two drug de-addiction centres – in Pasighat and Tezu – have been functioning. The de-addiction centres in Namsai, Yupia, Changlang and Khonsa could not be made functional, and the lapse is attributed to shortage of trained human resources and specialist doctors.
What is more surprising is that Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein only recently realized that “the drug menace is spreading like wildfire all over the state and ruining the society day by day.”
However, the local administrations and the police in some of the opium-hit districts, with the cooperation of the state narcotics cell, have launched massive operations against opium cultivation, while the government is silent about providing alternative livelihood to the farmers of the opium-hit districts.
Destruction of opium fields is carried out almost every year, but the majority of the people do not know yet the government’s action plan for providing alternative livelihood to opium cultivators.
Last year the state government had taken the initiative to start a pilot project on medicinal plants in order to provide alternative livelihood to opium growing farmers. According to a report, the urgent emphasis on alternative livelihood has come about after several startling statistics came to light on the extent of the drug problem in the sensitive state. Now only the government agencies know about the status of that pilot project.
The report further said that 74 per cent of the villagers in Lohit district have drug-related problems, while 98 per cent of the villages in Anjaw district engage in some degree of opium production.
Through the years, this daily has been highlighting the opium menace which has already taken an epidemic form; however, whichever party comes to power fails to realize the threat to the society and the rural economy from illegal opium cultivation.
The worst opium/drug-affected districts are Anjaw, Lohit, Namsai, Changlang, Longding, and Tirap. Even though several laws are in place, drug abuse among the youths in Changlang has increased alarmingly.
The government must think big and act big to curb the drug menace and adopt a three-pronged strategy: destruction of opium fields, action against persons involved in drug trafficking, and rehabilitation of drug addicts, along with initiating alternative livelihood projects, such as providing the farmers with other cash crops.
It has already been proved that merely destroying opium fields will not bear fruits, unless the farmers are provided with alternative means of livelihood.
Above all, the state narcotics cell, which is working as a coordinator between the central narcotic enforcement agencies and the opium-affected districts, should be empowered, given more teeth in the form of manpower, resources and infrastructure, so that it can play a major role in eradicating the drug menace from the state.