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6-day anti-opium crusade begins

- Arunachal Pradesh governor flags off half-marathon in Tirap district

Khonsa (Arunachal Pradesh), Dec. 11: The fight against opium could become the new opiate for people with five frontier districts of Arunachal Pradesh adjoining the Golden Triangle launching a massive six-day awareness campaign today.

Flagging off the anti-opium crusade with 2nd Tirap half-marathon (the first was launched in 2009 against insurgency) at the Nehru stadium here, the headquarters of Tirap district, Arunachal Pradesh Governor, Gen. (retd) J.J. Singh, praised the “path-breaking” step undertaken by the five districts of Longding, Changlang, Tirap, Lohit and Anjaw, where opium cultivation and use have become a menace.

Lauding the role of Tirap, Gen. Singh said the district could become a role model for the entire state. “It is indeed a courageous step by the Tirap administration to launch a crusade against the age-old menace of opium which has created huge problems for society and has also threatened the future generations.”

Even before it started, the campaign had got a boost with Naglo and Lonliam, two villages in the Lazo area of Tirap, agreeing to give up opium cultivation. They are scheduled to sign an agreement with the administration tomorrow when a motorcycle-cum-jeep rally, which will be flagged off tomorrow at 6, passes through the villages. The rally will pass through the opium-growing areas before ending at Kibithoo, the easternmost point of roadhead in India, in Anjaw district.

Lending his support to the campaign, the governor announced Rs 5 lakh for a drug de-addiction centre here and Rs 1 lakh to continue the fight against opium use.

Gen. Singh also announced an assistance of Rs 5 lakh to procure furniture for government schools in Khonsa and Rs 2 lakh for setting up a dental care unit at the district hospital.

Khonsa (East) legislator Kamthok Lowang appealed to the gaon burahs (village chiefs) and local leaders to shun use of opium and to lead from the front so that they can set an example for others.

Arunachal Pradesh Speaker Wanglin Lowangdong expressed concern over the use of opium by younger generations. “It’s time we take some bold steps to prevent the use of opium among the younger generation,” he said.

In his welcome address, Tirap deputy commissioner Sachin Kumar Shinde said he had faced a dual problem while dealing with opium users while he was posted in the district around six months back.

“As a district judge, it was my duty to prosecute all those associated with banned opium under the law but as a deputy commissioner I had to adopt a more humane approach and think about their rehabilitation and systematic uprooting of the menace. As such, the idea of launching this crusade against opium started and we will continue with it,” he said.

Four cultural troupes from the Tutsa, Wangcho and Nocte communities presented traditional dances while the Kanubari Women’s Welfare Association, which was rewarded for its stand against opium, presented a skit on the ill effects of opium. Around 600 participants, who were divided in five categories, took part in the half-marathon.

Later, the governor laid the foundation stone of an integrated water harvesting system of 1.5 lakh litre capacity at Khonsa police station. He and his wife Anupama Singh also visited R.K. Sarada Mission School and interacted with the students. Gen. Singh said he would recommend to the state government to provide the school a grant for the construction of a new auditorium building and a school bus. He donated Rs 50,000 for purchase of new books for the school library.