Satellite data reveals Arunachal a hotbed of opium farming | india | Hindustan Times
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Satellite data reveals Arunachal a hotbed of opium farming

Government stumped over production in areas bordering China; opium being routed to Myanmar through Assam.

india Updated: Jul 03, 2014 16:49 IST
Saikat Datta

The discovery of large-scale opium cultivation in Arunachal Pradesh now threatens to tag India as a producer of drugs, according to a study compiled by the ministry of home affairs.

The report is based on a detailed assessment prepared by the eastern zone headquarters of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in March this year. Taking cognisance of the serious consequences of the report, the MHA has issued a detailed directive to governments of Arunachal and Assam to address the threat immediately.

“Traditionally, India is known as a route for drugs from Afghanistan or Europe to South-East-Asia. There have been reports of some states like Madhya Pradesh having pockets of opium cultivation. But we have not seen the kind of large-scale cultivation that we are witnessing in Arunachal Pradesh right now,” said a senior MHA official.

The NCB’s findings were confirmed by remote sensing satellite imagery data from the Advanced Data Processing Research Institute (ADRIN), a division of the Indian Space Research Organisation to confirm the findings.“ADRIN study confirmed the opium cultivation in nearly eight border districts of Arunachal,” said another official. The fact that all these districts border China has also led to concerns over security implications of the large-scale cultivation.

The NCB’s detailed study also found that most of the opium is being routed to Myanmar through Assam to be converted into heroin. While some of it is being sent back to India, most of it is being exported to South-East Asia and fetches a very high price according to officials. The report also established that most of the cultivation was being done by locals at the behest of traders from Rajasthan. “They fund the cultivation, collect the crop and then smuggle it out to Myanmar and possibly China,” the official said.

"India has never been a huge heroin consumer. Last year about 500 kg of heroin was seized, with bulk of it coming from Punjab and Gujarat’s border areas," an intelligence official said.