Maoists, northeast rebels may be involved in drug trade: Official

May 22nd, 2010 - 11:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Shillong, May 22 (IANS) Maoists and various northeast-based rebel groups may be using the illicit drug trade route to generate funds for their operations, a senior official said Saturday.
“There is a possibility of northeast militants and Maoists taking a percentage from drugs production, which includes cultivation of cannabis and poppy, to fund their violent movements,” Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Director General O.P.S. Malik told media persons here.

Not ruling out militants and Maoists having a hand in such cultivation, he said: “The Taliban does not directly cultivate poppy in Afghanistan but through operatives. Similar may be the case in the northeast and West Bengal”.

Afghans, under Soviet occupation, extensively cultivated poppy to manufacture heroin mainly to fund their struggle against the Soviets. The Taliban is using similar tactics to fight the US.

“More than 3,000 acres of land in West Bengal, 1,200 acres in Arunachal Pradesh and 850 acres in Manipur was cleared of cannabis and poppy cultivation last year,” Malik said.

Malik, who reviewed the narcotics scenario in the eastern region with various central agencies, said the incidence of illegal cultivation of poppy is particularly common in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

“But it is difficult for us to destroy these illegal poppy cultivations as they are grown in remote and inaccessible areas of Arunachal and Manipur,” he added.

Pointing out that Meghalaya is a “high transit route” for narcotics, the NCB chief said that consumption of drugs is very low in the state but it has become a transit route for trafficking drugs across India.

Meanwhile, apart from plant-based drugs, smuggling of pharmaceutical drugs in the region is on the rise. Various central government agencies held discussions here during a regional meeting to find ways to stop abuse of prescription drugs in the northeast.

“Abuse of pharmaceutical drugs like cough syrup is on the rise in the northeast. There has been seizure of over 35,000 bottles of Phensidyle last year,” Malik said.

Meghalaya and Tripura, it has emerged, has become a favoured “transit route” for smugglers to slip the cough syrup into Bangladesh, where it is in high demand.

The paramilitary Border Security Force has made seizures - sometimes truckloads - of bottles of the medicine in Meghalaya and Tripura - all meant to be smuggled into Bangladesh.

The NCB chief said there are at least three cartels running this racket in the eastern region.

“One is Guwahati-based (Pakhi Mia) and the others operate from Kolkata…that’s all we can give details about,” he added.

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