NEW DELHI: While Punjab struggles to deal with its drug crisis, the northeastern state of Mizoram has emerged as the state with the highest number of drugs seized in the country with 48,209 tonnes over the last four years. Manipur and Assam are also among states with a rapidly growing vulnerability to an epidemic of drug abuse.

The rise in the supply of drugs in northeastern states is largely attributed to the infamous Golden Triangle which comprises of countries- Myanmar, Laos and Thailand. Mizoram, which shares its border with Myanmar, is thereby all the more susceptible to drug trafficking.

According to the record maintained by the state Excise and Narcotics Department, at least 1,378 people including 147 women have died in Mizoram due to the consumption of drugs since 1984. Out of the 1,371 deaths from 1984 to 2015, heroin is believed to have claimed 128 lives. An estimated increase in the injection of prescription drugs such as, Dextropropoxyphene (proxyvon/parvon-spas etc.) has also been listed as the cause of many deaths. Officials stated that there has been a considerable increase in heroin trafficking through the permeable Mizoram-Myanmar border during the last two years and the cost of heroin in the local market had come down over the years.

A 27-year-old Myanmar national was recently arrested in connection with the seizure of 420 grams of heroin in Aizwal. The heroin, with a reported street value of 10.50 lakh, was concealed inside soap boxes, and smuggled from Myanmar through Champhai district, a police official said.

Several cases of contraband being smuggled in and out of the country through the northeastern state borders have been reported lately. Some of the drugs seized include amphetamine, cannabis plant, cocaine, ganja, hashish, heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), morphine and opium among others.

Despite being close to replicating the dismal conditions of drug abuse in Punjab, measures to avert a potential crisis in Mizoram have been minimal as is characterized by the lack of attention surrounding this issue. This wouldn’t be the first time a significant ongoing issue in a northeastern state has not been able to garner enough prominence even as the situation continues to deteriorate. Even with such alarming statistics as have been reported, Mizoram does not feature in the top five states where maximum cases of drug trafficking are registered.

In an attempt to tackle the rising threat of a drug crisis, Mizoram’s largest voluntary organization, The Young Mizo Association gathered an anti-narcotics team last year with the motive of alleviating drug abuse in the state. This noteworthy group has not only been involved in confiscation of illicit consignments but also in the rehabilitation of addicts.

Within weeks of starting out, volunteers rounded up addicts, peddlers and sex workers linked to the drug trade, and committed more than 200 individuals to counselling to wean them off the habit with the informed consent of families and relatives. Similar organizations in corroboration with the government would go a long way in curbing illicit circulation and providing suitable treatment to victims of addiction.

Tracking the menace of drug trafficking and abuse in India is a challenging task, particularly due to porous borders and free movement, however, vigilant measures coupled with better enforcement are likely to play a key role in eliminating the threat of a drug crisis. Effective drug policy interventions and operations need to be established in order to counter the problem with a special focus to the rehabilitation of those already affected.