Arunachal tribals pledge to kick the opium habit
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Addicted to opium for centuries, tribal communities in several villages across five Arunachal Pradesh districts bordering China and Myanmar are beginning to give up the habit. Over 200 families belonging to various tribes have agreed to give up poppy cultivation and take to alternative cash crops offered by the government.
"Cultivation of poppy and consumption of opium have been a major socio-economic and health problem for the eastern districts of Arunachal Pradesh," said Sachin Shinde, deputy commissioner of Tirap, a district that shares a border with Myanmar. "A five-day campaign that was conducted in five districts bordering Myanmar and China last week helped generate a lot of awareness, especially among the youth."
The campaign, flagged off by Governor J J Singh in December at Khonsa, the Tirap headquarters, went on to cover the districts of Longding, Changlang, Lohit, and Anjaw, the last bordering China.
A measure of the extent of addiction can be estimated from the findings of a study conducted by the Delhi-based Institute of Narcotics Studies and Analysis (INSA). It had found that nearly 90 per cent of people in Anjaw and 63 per cent in Lohit were growing poppy and consuming opium in various traditional forms.
"We don't have exact figures, but opium has been traditionally grown in abundance in at least six Arunachal districts," said Madho Singh, Guwahati-based zonal director of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB). Regular operations are carried out by the central agency to destroy poppy cultivation in the hill state, he said. "A series of campaigns by the district authorities has made some impact but opium continues to be grown, particularly in the remote inaccessible areas."
Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, for his part, has drawn up a plan to introduce rubber to wean tribal communities away from poppy cultivation. "It is a challenging task, given the fact that opium has been part of tribal life for ages," Tuki told The Indian Express. "They even use opium as part of folk medicine. But once they start earning handsome amounts from rubber, they will surely give it up."
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