The ongoing police drive against drug dealers and addicts in Guwahati and some other parts of the State is coming a trifle late in the day. As far as Guwahati is concerned, the issue burst into public view thanks to the recent initiative of residents near Latashil police station in the heart of the city. Exasperated at the comings and goings of addicts at the rented accommodations of suspected drug peddlers, a civil society group aided by local people decided to take action last Wednesday. They besieged one such house, caught hold of addicts and turned them over to the police. Forced to act, the city police has at last swung into action, making arrests at places including Latasil, Fatasil Ambari, Paltan Bazar and Kamakhya rail gate. But those bbed so far are small fry in the drug chain; big fish are yet to be netted. This is despite the fact that several seizures of heroin, brown sugar, marijua, rcotic tablets and forbidden medicil formulations have been made in the city in the last year alone. Guwahati is known to lie bang in the rcotics corridor from parts of northern India through the Siliguri neck to Guwahati, then to Karbi Anglong as well as Northeast states like Manipur and galand and onwards to Manipur. The same route is retraced by drug operatives with NE militant groups based in Myanmar holding the reins of the network. Rising drug addiction in districts as spread apart as Dibrugarh and lbari, Kamrup and Charaideo points to the seriousness of the threat. Guwahati, however, remains a hub with youths from different NE states pursuing various educatiol and professiol courses in the city. The question is — when Guwahati has been a police commissionerate for more than a year, why is it that its residents have had to push the police to take action against drug peddlers? The perceived lack of coordition between police station cops on the beat and crime branch sleuths has not helped matters. Pointing to several complaints to Latashil police station earlier, disgusted residents are alleging that drug peddlers make regular payoffs to rogue policemen to look the other way.
Such allegations are not to be taken lightly. After all, the drug business is the biggest corrupter of politicians and police forces, which makes it almost impossible to eradicate once it takes root. Within a couple of decades, the drug mece can lay waste a generation and destroy the economy of a state, as it has done to Punjab. It is astounding and deeply saddening that a state which was once the country’s breadbasket, a pillar of its armed forces, a sports powerhouse and a fount of entrepreneurship, has been brought to its knees by endemic drugs. More than half its youth are addicted to drugs; over two-third of households in Punjab have lost at least one member to drug addiction; incidence of drug-related crimes in the state are around nine times the tiol average. The jihadi network backed by Pakistan’s ISI is known to be pushing into Punjab heroin and other opiates from the Afghan opium crescent; according to an AIIMS study in January this year, the rcotics business has already reached a staggering Rs 7,500 crores per year. However, opiates and cocaine are also reportedly flowing from several parts of north and central India into that state, while pharmaceutical drugs have been found sold over the counter without prescription. The jihadi attack on the Pathankot air base in January this year has also brought to light the extent to which Punjab’s police forces have been compromised by drug payoffs, with the role of some political leaders also coming under the scanner. The drug problem in the state is now a major political issue, with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) fiercely taking on the Akali Dal-BJP combine as well as the Congress over their governments’ failures in stamping out the mece. The aftermath of militancy, openly available alcohol and an easy money culture in Punjab brought in their wake the drugs scourge. It can afflict the Northeast as well, having a similar set of conditions, with the opium triangle of Myanmar lying across its eastern borders. If drug trafficking is allowed to strike root in Assam, like the flourishing trades in rhino horn, gold and weapons, the state is heading towards a major social disaster.