Climate Change pushes Assam farmers to Drug Mafia hands
Climate Change Pushes Assam Farmers To Drug Mafia Hands. Besides impacting over a million people economically, Climate change and its adverse effects have also made thousands fall prey to the hands of influential drug mafia groups in the state of Assam.
Besides impacting over a million people economically, Climate change and its adverse effects have also made thousands fall prey to the hands of influential drug mafia groups in the state of Assam. As a result of the adverse impacts of climate change which includes unpredictable rainfall, thousands of farmers in the state are being affected, and several once rich farmers are now buried in debt, and this has caught the attention of the influential drug mafia in the state.
According to information from different sources in the government which includes the Narcotics Control Bureau, the drug mafia is luring impoverished farmers in Assam’s char (riverine islands) areas into illegal poppy cultivation.
According to a report, the government has inputs about organised drug trafficking rackets investing money in poppy cultivation in the state, and it also points out that there are specific inputs with the government on the drug mafia providing money as well as poppy seeds to farmers for cultivation in several char areas in several district in Assam.
Several farmers have themselves admitted that they have started cultivation of opium recently as they have suffered severe financial losses over the years.
“I have lost a big portion of my cultivable land as a result of erosion, and moreover as a result of the unpredictable rainfall over the years—the last 10 years or, my income has gone down severely, which left me with no other options but to look for some additional sources of money,” said Mauslim Ali, a farmer from the Darrang district in Assam.
He said that he was given an advance amount of Rs 5,000 and was asked to cultivate opium in a very small portion of his cultivable land, and added that he was given the seeds and was also promised Rs 30,000 after the opium is collected.
“I was approached by a person two years back, and this is my second year I have cultivated opium for him. Now over hundred farmers are cultivating opium, on a very small scale,” said Ali.
The Assam government when approached said that cultivation of opium is completely illegal, and also said that such cultivation will be destroyed by the excise department, and persons who are luring the farmers will be affected.
The government officials however had no response when told that natural calamities such as flood and erosions aggravated by climate change are worsening the situation.
Once the poppy plants mature, the seeds are separated from the poppy pod and a white latex called opium resin (a milk-like fluid) is scraped from the pod.
The latex solidifies and turns to a brownish colour when it is dried for about four hours and then sold as opium.
“A section of cultivators are getting attracted to poppy cultivation as they have nothing to lose. Even if the poppy crops are destroyed by law enforcement agencies, they needn’t make any investment as the seeds are provided to them by the drug mafia,” said a senior official of the Assam excise department who didn’t wished to be named.
Arunachal Pradesh governor Lt Gen. (retd) Nirbhay Sharma in a interaction with the media on the issue of illicit drugs said that trans-border drug trafficking in the Northeast (including Sikkim), which shares a 5,437km border with Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan, will create serious national security risks.
“There is rampant use of drugs, high incidence of HIV/AIDS, regular ethnic conflict, poverty and unemployment in the Northeast. Easy access and availability of illegal drugs and close proximity with places like Laos, Thailand and Myanmar have also contributed to the problem. Such disturbing phenomenon in the frontier states will create a dangerous situation in terms of national security,” said Sharma
According to reports, apart from local consumption of the opium extracted from poppy, the pod is smuggled out to cater to the Golden Triangle comprising Myanmar, Laos and Thailand through the porous Indo-Myanmar border for producing heroin.
The official said the price varies according to demand — opium weighing about 11.9gm is generally sold at about Rs 200.
(The author has received a travel support under the HICAP media grant)