The detrimental impact of poppy cultivation on education

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By: Alphonsa D Haokip

The poppy plant which is a source of opium gum contains several alkaloids such as morphine, codeine, and thebaine. In recent years poppy cultivation is on the rise and gaining momentum in the state of Manipur especially in the hill districts. This comes as the poppy cultivation fetches promising returns than other conventional crops and the farmers have the patronage of the drug mafias. The alluring demand of poppy and the good returns it brings blinds the vision of the cultivators to see the harm it can cause to the coming generations. Consequently, conventional crops like paddy have been gradually discarded as poppy farming is more beneficial in terms of duration and demand in the market.

The age-old practice of jhum cultivation does not suffice the increasing needs and demands of modern families, the soaring educational expenses of their children, increase of assets, and purchasing power. The issues of jhum cultivation discussed during many round table conferences and seminars continue to remain only in the papers. The promises and schemes on the part of the government to adequately address their financial issues and solve their perennial problems see no ray of hope for any development. Besides, the absence of a land tenure system in the hills is another contributing factor for shifting to poppy cultivation. Hence, the farmers have opted for poppy cultivation not by choice or due to the charm of a trendy enterprise. Rather, their destitute situations, deprivation of developmental schemes and facilities, negligence from the government over the years have driven the poor farmers of remote villages to venture into this novel poppy cultivation. Nevertheless, poppy cultivation cannot be justified and the harm it causes cannot be hushed up since the detrimental impact of poppy cultivation can have a lasting effect on the coming generations especially from the educational point of view.

Poppy cultivation is contrary to the values initiated and taught in educational institutions. The students are confused because the stringent disciplinary measures meted out in the schools against the use of contraband substances and the scene at home is different. The parents who are expected to follow up with their children regarding the use of the contraband substance and discipline them are enthralled in the trade of contraband substance thereby promoting it in subtle ways. The flourishing business at the back doors, transactions of contraband substances that occur at wee hours and in the twilight of the day blur their perception about the educational values. The strategies adopted by the management and the staff in educational institutions and admonitions promulgated to caution the students regarding the use of contraband substances, and the importance of educational values attached to it are contradictory to the real-life scenes at home.

It is observed that many of the poppy cultivators have school and college-going children. The young students get ample opportunities to explore what poppy is all about. They are thrilled to investigate the drug in the absence of parents as it is easily accessible to them. This favourable atmosphere excites them to try out for themselves and have the novel experience to experiment with the contraband substance. Once they get the initial experience they are ever on the lookout for more of such opportunities. By and by they learn to compromise with contraband substances, and neglect the guidelines and discipline of the school, give a deaf ear to the advice of their teachers on contraband substances.

The illegal cultivation of poppy and the black trade associated with deeply impact the values of honesty and sincerity instilled to the students right from the beginning of their schooling. The way of earning easy money demotivates them to study hard and excel in their academic performance. The illegal practice rampant in the close quarters of their vicinity encourages them to neglect their studies and get through the tests and exams through malpractice. They tend to believe that double-dealing is permissible to excel and thrive well in the market. One gets the insight to champion as survival of the fittest in this competitive world underhand dealings are inevitable and justified. Since they daily witnessed that poppy dealers are often facilitated and supported from being apprehended by the police and escape the due chastisement.

The family, the society, and the school are members of educational shareholders and not a separated entity. The young learners look up to the leaders and elders in society for guidance. They consider their parents as role models and try their best to imitate them in all possible ways. However, the scandalous network between the poppy growers and drug exporters both at the farm-gate and at the boarders persuade them to corrupt practices. They tend to perceive that malpractice is acceptable and permitted. Naturally, they are tempted to emulate such unethical practices when they grow up. The illegal practices of their parents and elders of the society that take place below their nose encourage them to crack their class tests and examinations through unfair means. Therefore, these evil enterprises encourage students to be corrupt.

The copious use of chemicals fertilizers and pesticides sprayed for poppy get dissolved in the soil which ultimately flows down the upland slope to the rivers. This becomes toxic and unfit for human consumption. The pollen grains that float in the air are harmful to the inhabitants of the surrounding villages. The health of the young learners is at risk because they are exposed to hazardous environments and endangering health issues. Hence, awareness should be given to the hill farmers about the detrimental impact of poppy cultivation. However, one cannot just force the poor villagers to give up abruptly without showing and opening alternative venues for survival. Further, sending the police forces to destroy when the poppy plants are ready for harvest will not solve the problem. This will further aggravate the anguish of the poor farmers whose sole hope and dependence lie on it. The government should take initiatives for alternate programs to ensure their livelihood. The government can take initiative to provide hybrid yielding seeds, soil fertilizers that are cost-effective and safe for human health. (The author is a Research Scholar at Rajiv Gandhi University, Rono-Hills, Doimukh, Arunachal Pradesh. She can be reached at [email protected])

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