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Manipur mulls probe handover

Imphal, Feb. 27: The Manipur government is mulling the handover of the Pallel drug seizure case to central investigating agencies to unearth the entire network behind the pseudoephedrine smuggling attempt.

A day after police investigators arrested Seikholen Haokip, son of Congress MLA and former minister T.N. Haokip, and recovered banned drugs from his Imphal home, deputy chief minister Gaikhangam today said the case would be thoroughly investigated and all those involved would be punished.

“The government is considering handover of the case to either the CBI or the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB),” Gaikhangam, who is also the home minister, told reporters on the sidelines of the flag-off programme of the BCIM car rally here today.

Pseudoephedrine tablets valued at more than Rs 20 crore in the black market were seized by the police at Pallel in Thoubal district, around 54 km from here, on February 24, from three vehicles, all having “army” labels. Defence public relations officer Lt Col Ajay Choudhry was leading the vehicles from Imphal to Moreh, apparently in a bid to smuggle the tablets into Myanmar. Besides Choudhry, five persons were arrested.

“The law will take its own course. We will not hide anything and protect anyone. No one involved in the case will be spared,” Gaikhangam said. He said the government would formulate an action plan to check use of Manipur as a “corridor” by drug smugglers.

The defence ministry yesterday sacked Col Choudhry and he may also be tried in an army court. All the seven accused would be produced before a Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) court here on March 8.

T.N. Haokip today clarified that he had nothing to do with his son’s role in the case.

“The seizure in Pallel and my son’s arrest is a big achievement of the government in fighting drug smuggling. The police personnel involved in busting the racket should be rewarded. The case should be handed over to the CBI or the NCB so that the real kingpin of the racket can be found,” Haokip told reporters today at a news conference at his official quarter.

Haokip said his relationship with his son was strained and there had been no communication between them for the past four years. He said his son was involved in contract work earlier against his wishes.

In another development, about 50 representatives of more than 10 women’s organisations demonstrated inside the Imphal airport complex today, shouting slogans and demanding an end to transportation of drugs by air.

The protesters later submitted a memorandum to the airport authorities urging them to check smuggling of drugs.

The Women’s wing of the BJP Manipur unit also staged a sit-in at the party office here today demanding an investigation into the Pallel case and punishment to the culprits. The party demanded routine checking of air consignments at Imphal airport and setting up of a special investigation unit in the police department to deal with drug smuggling.

Later, a BJP Mahila Morcha delegation submitted a memorandum to Governor Gurbachan Jagat listing the same demands. “We are forced to raise our voice against drug smuggling, as our youths would be destroyed by drugs,” A. Sarda Devi, national vice-president, BJP Mahila Morcha, said.

The Manipur unit of Naga Peoples Front asked the Okram Ibobi Singh government to step down owning moral responsibility for not being able to check drug smuggling. “The government has failed to find all those involved in the recent drug seizures, making it clear that government people are involved in it,” NPF secretary Athon Abonmai said.