AIZAWL, Sept 11 – Even as the first Amphetamine Type Substance (ATS) rehabilitation centre is to be opened here to cater to Mizoram’s first batch of meth-heads, a media war is raging between the ruling Congress and the Opposition Mizo National Front (MNF) over the alleged involvement of Health Minister Lalrinliana Sailo in pseudoephedrine smuggling. The MNF had called a 5 am to 5 pm bandh yesterday to protest his continuance in the State Cabinet.
But what has become the unlikely ‘victim’ of this mud-slinging is the law and people’s confidence in the government’s ability to pin down criminals, particularly those smuggling drug as their power seems proverbially far-reaching.
Public confidence in the law is at an all-time low in the State, especially after the Health Minister flanked by the Commissioner of Excise Lalbiakmawia and jt director of Health Lalsawma, jointly addressed the press recently with both the senior government officials going all out to defend the politician against such allegations.
While there is every chance that the Minister could be a victim of MNF’s smear campaign, several people spoken to said that the officials defending a politician in such a hot case ‘just stinks.’
The case in point alludes to a seizure of two tablet stripping machines and the arrest of a person Rampanmawia in August 2012. The tablets are stripped and loaded in bags for easy transport and concealment, State Excise and Narcotics sleuths say. He claimed that Sailo had given him a wholesale drug licence which belonged to Sailo’s son Jacob Lalrinpuia, under which he had opened a drug store at Zokhawthar, the trade gateway to Myanmar. Pseudoephedrine can be bought by wholesalers under the strict vigilance of the N & DPSA and used as a cover by people who want to smuggle the stuff out.
An interesting point was added to the whole story when it was revealed at the Health Minister’s press meet that the Excise Commissioner Lalbiakmawia had run to Sailo ‘as soon as Rampanmawia was arrested by the narco-sleuths in whose possession they found Lalrinpuia’s drug license and knowing that Lalrinpuia was the Health Minister’s son, the Commissioner dashed off to report this to the Health Minister.”
The question that is being raised – did the State’s top anti-narcotics officer need to do this? Why did he do it? According to Excise and Narcotics department sources, the Commissioner is trying to explain this point, but has so far failed to satisfy anyone.
The Minister denied giving Rampanmawia the license, but, he too could not explain why and how as the Health Minister of the State he had got issued a wholesale drug license to his son, who was a minor and studying in a school in Delhi in 2010. His son, was neither in the medicine trade nor did he own a firm complete with a qualified pharmacist, which is the main criteria for being issued such a license under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act. Sailo excused himself by assuring that his son’s license had been cancelled due to the controversy. To add to the murkiness, the Jt Director Health told media that no criteria exists for issuing such a major drug license.
Rampanmawia confessed in his statement that he managed to buy prize real estate in the capital worth crores of rupees during 2012 which begged the query as to his source of money, as in the same statement he said his livelihood was trading in tobacco and fertilisers across borders till 2005.
Meanwhile, the MNF revealed that in December 2011, a haul of tablets along with stripping machines was made from his rented residence by the Mizoram Narcotics Cell. But unable to find Rampanmawia, the alleged owner, the case was dismissed by the court as the pseudoephedrine turned out to be fake. But this point fits Rampanmawia’s statement made to the Excise cops in the August 2012 case wherein he has revealed that in December 2012 the tablets he bought turned out to be fake as he was conned by his Silchar contact.
Excise and Narcotics officials, who have nabbed smugglers under the Narcotics & Psychotropic Substances Act (N&DPS), say that they are disillusioned that not a single pseudoephedrine case has been convicted by the courts. Such a dreadful controversy could not have come at a worse time as the State’s young lives are being ruined by the surge of meth from across the international border.