Betel leaves still at Airport PS, many demand action

IMPHAL, 5th Apr: Nearly 10 tonne of betel leaves airlifted from Kolkata on Saturday and seized at Imphal airport Saturday are still in the custody of Airport police station. Airlifting of the betel leaves along with the consignment of essential items, including medicines and medical equipment has evoked strong condemnations from various organisations.
According to sources, the consignments of betel leaves were airlifted into the state by two cargo planes, one each of Spice Jet and Air Asia.
The Spice Jet cargo plane landed at Bir Tikendrajit International Airport at 9.30am Saturday while the cargo plane of Air Asia landed at 12.30pm the same day with nearly 10 tonne of betel leaves. However, all the betel leaves are currently in the custody of Airport PS under strict security.
Denouncing airlifting of betel leaves to the state in cargo planes on Saturday, International Peace and Social Advancement (IPSA) has demanded initiation of appropriate legal action against individuals involved in the trade and prohibition of entry of non-Manipuris into the state during the lockdown period.
In a release, IPSA secretary S Tombisana alleged that airlifting of huge consignment of betel leaves during the lockdown period is an attempt to dilute the indigenous population. So, appropriate legal actions should be initiated against everyone involved in the activity.
Drawing attention of the state government, Tombisana demanded details of Manipuri, Non-Manipuri and airport officials involved in transportation of the betel leaves in violation of the lockdown protocols.
Slamming the traders, Tombisana called them ‘profit-minded misers’ who have no concern for the sacrifices and hardships faced by CSOs and people in essential services while combating coronavirus pandemic.
Tombisana also expressed concern that some truck drivers have been illegally transporting non-Manipuris into the state which may have serious repercussions later on.
Development & Protection, United Voluntary Organisation (DPUVO) and Nambol Apunba Nupi Lup also condemned import of betel leaves and tobacco which have been declared as illegal by the government, through cargo flight at Imphal Bir Tikendrajit International Airport amidst the nation-wide lockdown for containing COVID-19 on Saturday.
Issuing a press release in this regard, secretary of DPUVO, Th Lamjingba called for punishment of those responsible for bringing in the illegal products and destroying the consignment by burning it in front of public.
Coalition Against Drugs & Alcohol (CADA) has also strongly condemned bringing in betel leaves through cargo fights on Saturday instead of bringing in essential commodities to the state where people are facing scarcity of essential items and personal protective equipment because of the lockdown.
Issuing a press release in this regard, secretary information & publicity of CADA, Khundongbam Anand pointed out that the bringing in of addictive substances instead of essential commodities during the lockdown is an insult to the people and the government by profit mongering businessman.
Despite stringent measures taken up by the government to fight COVID-19, there is no assurance that the executives of the present government might not be involved in such activities by joining up hands with the profit mongering businessman, Anand said, while demanding an enquiry by the government to find those who are behind such profit mongering business during panic stricken times.
Calling for disposal of the seized betel leaves in front of public, Anand warned that the people would not remain silent spectator if the seized betel leaves went missing.
Observing the brutalities of the police towards public for violating the lockdown, Anand further questioned the government whether they would not punish and arrest those who brought such items to the state despite the lockdown.
He stressed that the government should know the condition of the state where people emphasised more on pan which cost around RS 30-40 instead of basic commodities. Anand observed that such situation showed that the people of the land are addicted to tobacco products and such addiction has arisen from the fact that people considered tobacco products and alcohol as essential items for ceremonies.
In order to stop such addiction, Anand called for stopping use of alcohol and tobacco products in ceremonies, festivals or rituals and also appealed to the government to implement Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Product Act (COTPA) 2003 effectively.

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