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Drug bust focus on Mizoram

Aizawl/Guwahati, May 21: Mizoram has emerged as one of the hotspots of narcotics trafficking with druglords operating from Myanmar and China extending their networks to the tiny northeastern state, away from the glare of enforcement agencies keeping vigil on the more predictable smuggling route through Moreh in Manipur.

Sources in the Narcotics Control Bureau said the arrest of three Myanmarese nationals and two Chinese from the rented house of a Calcutta-based Mizo — the house, ironically, belongs to former CBI scam-buster Upen Biswas — indicated the “emergence of Mizoram as the focal point of drug trafficking in the country”.

The absconding Mizo, identified as Sang Niang Thanga, is suspected to be at the helm of the notorious Ah Hua drug cartel’s operations in India. The cartel has spread its tentacles far and wide, establishing links with Colombian druglords and the mafiosi in Europe and the Americas.

H. Lalawizaura and Mathani, the two Calcutta-based Mizoram government employees detained by the NCB for their alleged links with Thanga, were today placed under suspension.

Mizoram finds a place on the drug trafficking map because of its proximity to the Golden Triangle — the trijunction of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos — which accounts for over 60 per cent of the narcotics traded across the world. The northeastern state has a 404-km-long porous border with Myanmar, through which conduits regularly smuggle in finished drugs and drug-manufacturing products.

However, enforcement agencies like the NCB, the Central Bureau of Narcotics and the narcotics cells of the excise and customs departments have been concentrating mostly on Moreh, an international trade point on the Indo-Myanmar border.

The Mizoram excise department was alerted to the state’s connection in the arrests on Monday by the NCB’s Delhi office. State excise commissioner Lalbiakmawia Khiangte confirmed an “alert notice” had been issued and the narcotics cell asked to intensify its vigil on the border.

Apart from the porous nature of the border, similarities between the Mizo language and that of the tribes of Myanmar’s Chin province are being used to their advantage by drug traffickers.

NCB sources said drug-manufacturing products such as acetic anhydride and ephedrine hydrochloride were being smuggled into Myanmar from India to process heroin, amphetamine tablets and the like. These drugs are later smuggled out to western countries through India.

An official of another enforcement agency said the entry of narcotic substances into Mizoram was mostly through Lungbung, Nagarchhip and Champai in the southern part of the state. He said the consignments usually originated at Bhokan, near Khampat, in Myanmar.

The area under poppy cultivation, the plant from which opium is produced, in Myanmar is estimated to be around 150,000 hectares. In the past decade alone, the Golden Triangle has produced at least 2,000 tonnes of heroin. Not long ago, large consignments of narcotics used to flow in freely through Moreh en route to destinations across the globe. National Highway 39, which connects Moreh to Dimapur in Nagaland, was the most popular route.

Officials who attended the Indo-Myanmar border conference in Aizawl tonight said better bilateral co-operation was required to curb drug trafficking through Mizoram.

They suggested intensified surveillance of the drug routes and regular exchange of intelligence on the smuggling rings in the two countries.

India had signed an agreement with Myanmar on March 30, 1993, for co-operation in preventing trafficking and reducing the demand for drugs.

The Indian delegation to the Aizawl conference was led by Rajib Agarwal, joint secretary in the Union home ministry, while the 17-member Myanmarese delegation was headed by U Muang Win, director-general of that country’s general administration department.

Apart from the big gangs, a large number of Chin migrants from Myanmar are engaged in drug smuggling in Mizoram. The International Narcotics Control Board has pegged the number of drug addicts in the state at 40,000.

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