Narco-politics soiling democratic ethos
THE spurt in drug smuggling, frequent recovery of huge quantities of narcotic drugs and arrest of peddlers in the state all sum up seriousness of the drug menace to the society. Deepening the problem of drug smuggling and its potential of ruining the youngsters is the arrest of Chandel Autonomous District Council chairman Lhukhosei Zou for indulging in the trade. While seizure of huge quantities of heroin, brown sugar and other psychotropic drugs at regular intervals from different parts of the state indicates that substance abuse remains a serious issue, involvement of a people’s representative like Lhukhosei could be construed as confirmation about close correlation between politics and drug money. Election rules impose caps on campaign spending, and candidates are required to submit sworn statements of their campaign donations and expenditures. Such statements, however, are rarely verified with the right earnest and effectiveness, thus reducing the poll campaign finance regulation in Manipur to simply a big joke. Seasoned as well as rookie politicians are certain to read the situation clearly and know that they can consequently hit two birds with one stone: launder dirty money and win political power. Moreover, people having political ambition seem to hold the belief that if others who are bereft of the cleanest personal records can use crime proceeds to enter politics then why should one also not gamble to check the pulse of the public, spend the drug minted money lavishly and if possible get elected to represent them. This is a situation which won’t be remedied merely by executing drug dealers. If government wants the war on drugs to succeed, then the person leading the pack of law-makers must lean on trustworthy and committed allies to pass laws to weed out dirty money from financing election, and then see to it that the laws are strictly enforced.
It’s an open secret that narco-politics is deeply rooted in the state, where elections are not necessarily won on the basis of political virtuosity and righteousness of the candidates concerned but depends primarily on how much he/she can spent in the democratic exercise. For instance, elections gaining notoriety as mainly a gamble amongst the wealthy individuals testify that votes could be purchased. Narco-politics is something that needs to be tackled mercilessly because illegal drugs and politics is a very serious and dangerous matter and involves huge amount of money. Equally worrisome is the possibility that even if authorities are aware about money from illegal drugs used to finance the campaign of some politicians they have no reliable data to back up these charges and drag the guilty to the court. Such a situation also exposes the fact that the drug dealers are better equipped than the government agencies, making it more difficult for them to run after these criminals. Even if politicians are crafty enough not to get directly involved in illicit drug trade, possibility of the drug money being funnelled to fund their election campaigns with the promise that after winning the legislators will ensure protection of the donors cannot be ruled out, especially in the backdrop of frequent incidences of seizure of large consignment of drugs in the state. As in typical deals involving dirty money, no receipts are issued and no signatures or even thumb marks are required, thereby making the enforcement agencies hard to trace or detect drug money in election. In view of the then Congress government mooting to introduce a Bill to forfeit the properties of drug offenders and their immediate relatives, it would do no harm in case the incumbent BJP-led regime follow suit and put in place an effective mechanism to cleanse politics of the taint of crime.