Drug Trafficking in Assam
Drug Trafficking in Assam

Drug Trafficking in Assam and the Northeast: Challenges and Solution

Understanding the Growing Menace and Exploring Strategies for Effective Counteraction

India’s North-East shares a porous, semi-mountainous and densely forested border with Myanmar, which is one of the constituent countries of the infamous “Golden Triangle”. This proximity to Myanmar’s poppy cultivation regions has led to development of drug corridors in states like Assam, Manipur, Mizoram , Nagaland and Arunachal pradesh.

Drug Trafficking Routes

India lies in the center of two major illegal opium growing locations in the globe.

Golden Crescent

  • This region of South Asia is a principal global site for opium production and distribution.

  • It comprises Afghanistan,Iran,and Pakistan.

    Golden Triangle

It represents the region coinciding with the rural mountains of Myanmar, Laos, Thailand.

  • It is southeast Asia's main opium- producing region and one of the oldest narcotics supply routes to Europe and North America.

  • Nearly 95% of the total opium produced in the Golden Triangle region is produced in Myanmar.

Due to its closeness to the Golden Triangle area, the northeastern states of India have suffered greatly from the effects of the drug trade.

The drug trade has had a significant impact on these states, leading to the spread of addiction, social unrest, and organised crime. The availability of drugs has fueled addiction and led to a rise in crime rates, including drug-related violence.

Reasons of the drug menace: 

The population living along the border is vulnerable and neglected, which leads to involvement in illegal trade and activities. 

  • Porous borders: Borders are permeable and difficult to manage in the lower Mekong region, resulting in widespread cross-border mobility and drug trafficking.

  • Limited control: There is limited government authority in the Golden Triangle, and trafficking occurs at a high rate.

  • Poverty: They are economically disadvantaged and have no other income sources.

  • Lack of opportunities: They are unable to find work in the region due to a lack of education and other unavailable possibilities.

  • Easy manipulation: Criminals and drug lords recognize the terrible socioeconomic conditions of the population, thus they control people's minds into participating in illicit activities in order to get quick money.

Assam's Rising Drug addiction:

  • Myanmar shares an international border with the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Manipur, which in turn shares interstate boundaries with the state of Assam, which is a gateway to the rest of India.

  • The geographical position of Assam makes it a major transit hub for the majority of narcotics produced in the golden triangle region and destined for distribution in the rest of India or way forward to other countries. 

  • Guwahati has now become a hub of drugs. Even the young children are gradually falling under the influence of the drug Mafia.

Insurgency link:

  • Assam Police dismantled a drug racket in Nagaon district, uncovering ties between a North East extremist group and narcotics smuggling.

  • The arrest of insurgent RK Hopingson, affiliated with NSCN (IM), revealed his involvement in drug trafficking since 2012.

  • Security analysts suggest that many insurgency groups in the North East, primarily situated in Myanmar, are linked to drug trafficking operations.

As stated by the CM:

  • Earlier, Assam used to be a transit route to carry drugs from Myanmar via Manipur and Nagaland. But we are now under the serious grip of large-scale local consumption like in Punjab.

  • Many young boys are consuming drugs like heroin, psychotropic substances like Yaba tablets and All is Yours tablets, which were found to be in use among cadres of militant groups to carry on their activities continuously for days without any sleep.

Government Policies against narcotics:

The Chief Minister said that in 2023, Assam Police seized drugs worth Rs 718 cr and arrested over 4,700 drug traffickers making it the most successful year for anti-drugs operations in the state.

  • Narco Coordination Centre (NCORD) - The Government has introduced the NCORD mechanism in 2016 to have effective coordination of actions among various Ministries, Departments, Central and States law enforcement agencies dealing with narcotics.

  • A special Task Force on Dark net and Crypto currency has been constituted to monitor suspicious transactions related to drugs on Darknet.

  • To prevent smuggling along border areas various border guarding forces like BSF, SSB and Assam Rifles have been empowered under Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substance (NDPS) Act, 1985 to make interdiction of drugs.

  • Launching of Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyan (NMBA) in 372 most vulnerable districts with a massive community outreach programme, involving more than 8000 youth volunteers.

  • National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction: The NAPDDR aims to reduce drug demand through awareness generation, capacity building, de-addiction and rehabilitation.

  • The Assam Police launched a ‘Drugs Free Assam Mobile App’ to curb usage of drugs. Information sharing on drugs trafficking and help for drug users have been digitised through this App by the Police Department.


Tackling drug trafficking in the North East region requires a multi-faceted approach. Firstly, there's a need for enhanced cooperation and intelligence sharing among law enforcement agencies at the local, national, and international levels to disrupt drug smuggling networks effectively. Addressing the socio-economic root causes of vulnerability to drug abuse and trafficking, such as unemployment and social instability, strengthening border security measures and implementing stringent legal frameworks to deter and prosecute drug traffickers are vital. Ultimately, a comprehensive and coordinated approach involving law enforcement, community participation, and socio-economic development is crucial for effectively combating drug trafficking in the North East.

Advait IAS