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Mizoram stares at meth threat after hauls

Aizawl, May 6: A string of methamphetamine hauls in Mizoram has revealed that the state is now faced with the threat of this new drug, along with heroin and other over-the-counter drugs that have killed a large number of youths here.

For the third time this year, a huge haul of methamphetamine commonly called meth, was recovered in Mizoram near the Myanmar border.

Customs officials seized 10,000 tablets of methamphetamine, reddish-orange in colour and each marked 88, from Melbuk village in Champhai district on April 30.

Two Myanmarese nationals — a woman named Lalruaipuii, 26, and Lalhnunpuia Bawihtlung, 45 — were arrested in this connection.

The seized drugs have a street value of Rs 1 crore, officials said.

On March 5, officials seized 15,000 tablets of meth, smuggled from Myanmar, in Aizawl and arrested a Myanmarese national.

All the accused have been booked under relevant sections of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985.

Earlier on January 31, the excise police seized 120,000 tablets of the same drug in Aizawl.

The seized drugs were valued at Rs 2.4 crore in the local market and it is said to be the biggest meth haul in Mizoram so far.

Mizoram, which shares a 404km unfenced border with Myanmar and is in the neighbourhood of the dreaded Golden Triangle — an area that overlaps the mountains of Myanmar, Laos and Thailand — serves as a two-way route for cross-border drug trade based in Myanmar.

The meth factories in Myanmar are partly fuelled by pseudoephedrine smuggled out from India, mainly through the Northeast.

“Pseudoephedrine is bought from other parts of India and smuggled out to Myanmar through our state, which is then used to make methamphetamine and other derivatives which is smuggled across the world,” said an excise and narcotics department official.

Excise seized 670 tablets of meth in 2001, 971 in 2002 and 287 in 2011. The first seizure of meth was way back in the late nineties, they said.

Another official said one pill of meth is sold for Rs 150 in Tiau, a town in Myanmar close to the border, and for Rs 350 each in the interiors of the state.

Sources in the Young Mizo Association, a voluntary organisation actively involved in the anti-drug fight, said peddlers have only just begun flooding the streets with meth pills and sometimes give it for free to addicts as trial doses.

Seizure of pseudoephedrine, from which meth is manufactured, began in Mizoram in 2011.

State excise and narcotics department sources said altogether 1,11,50,130 tablets of the drug were seized in 2011. The haul increased in the following two years.

The pharmaceutical drug is a valued item for smugglers for its chemical composition.

It consists of 60-68 per cent ephedrine, which is used to manufacture amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) or party drugs, as they are colloquially known.

The final product is sent back to the Indian metros and even as far off as Europe, say several United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports over the years.

The tablets are stripped, bundled into polythene bags for easy concealment and carried by air or land to Mizoram from where it is sent across to the neighbouring country where drug dealers process them in factories along the border.

The state excise and narcotics department seized 1,03,39,648 tablets during April 2013 to March 2014. This figure does not include those seized by the police, CID (special branch) and local volunteers. The latest seizure of pseudoephedrine was that of more than 100kg recovered from a Congress party spokesperson Lalrozara’s Bolero MUV on April 17.

Lalrozara and six others were arrested and he is now in Aizawl central jail.