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Tirap farmers say no to opium
Hope rests on govt drive

Jorhat, Nov. 28: Naglo and Lonliam, two nondescript villages in the Lazo area of Tirap district in Arunachal Pradesh, have taken a path-breaking decision that could stir others like them out of their opium-induced stupor.

The two villages have agreed to give up opium cultivation and will sign an understanding with the district administration to that effect when five frontier districts, including Tirap, of the state, bordering Myanmar and China, join hands to launch a massive awareness campaign on December 11 in the remote villages adjoining the Golden Triangle to make people aware of the ill effects of opium.

The campaign has been prompted by the largescale deforestation undertaken by the villagers of Longding, Tirap, Changlang, Lohit and Anjaw districts to clear land for opium cultivation. The opium grown in these districts makes its way not only into the domestic market in a raw form but also enters the international drug trade after being taken to Myanmar where there are factories to refine these products into heroin.

Tirap deputy commissioner Sachin Shinde told The Telegraph over phone today that this would be the biggest such campaign launched in the five districts. “It’s a sort of custom for many villagers to take to opium cultivation. Many of them are unaware of its ill effects and the awareness campaign will be the best way to check opium cultivation in these parts.”

The six-day campaign will begin with a motorcycle-cum-jeep rally at Khonsa, the district headquarters of Tirap, and will pass through the opium-growing areas before ending at Kibithoo, the easternmost point of roadhead in India, in Anjaw district.

Said Shinde, “Naglo and Lonliam have agreed to give up opium cultivation completely and will sign an understanding with the district administration as the rally passes through these villages. We will distribute chicks among the villagers so that they can start poultry farming instead.”

As part of the initiative, a documentary film has also been prepared with messages from political and religious leaders denouncing the practice of cultivation and consumption of opium.

“The legal implications of growing, selling, possessing opium have also been explained in the documentary. Interviews of farmers who have given up opium cultivation and taken to cultivation of cash crops such as cardamom, ginger and kiwi fruit have also been taken. The documentary is proposed to be screened at all the places through which the rally will pass during interaction with the public from these opium-growing districts,” Shindhe said.

An official at the Narcotics Control Bureau, Northeast, said opium cultivation was a major problem in these five districts of Arunachal Pradesh.

“We have been carrying out operations regularly to destroy poppy crop in these districts. But our efforts generally go in vain given the constraints of terrain and time. We are only able to destroy the crop growing in the immediate vicinity of easily accessible roads. It is impossible to cover the entire area before the crop is harvested,” he added.

Last year, the Narcotics Control Bureau, with the help of local administration, had destroyed 1,300 acres of poppy cultivation in these districts. But these efforts are generally opposed by the villagers for whom opium cultivation is a source of livelihood.

“We are also carrying out awareness campaigns to educate the people about the ill-effects of opium,” the NCB official said.


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