The Myanmar political crisis has led to “an increase in smuggling activities” in Mizoram with a rise in seizure of contrabands and exotic animal species in the northeastern state, officials said on Sunday.

According to the state government’s data accessed by PTI, the volume of heroin recovered by the excise department and the state police increased from 20.36 kilogram in 2020 to 34.52 kg last year. During the January-May period of the current year, 19.81 kg of heroin has been seized and 374 people have been arrested for allegedly possessing the contraband.

The volume of drugs and other smuggled goods, such as exotic wild animals, dried areca nuts and Burmese cigarettes, recovered by law enforcement agencies has “increased substantially since the military seized power in the neighbouring country in February last year,” the excise and narcotics department official said on condition of anonymity.

“There is no doubt that the Myanmar political crisis has led to the significant increase in trafficking of drugs, especially heroin, from Myanmar to India via Mizoram,” he said.

Some of the arrested Myanmar nationals were found to get involved in the smuggling activities recently, the official said, adding that efforts from various state agencies are on to apprehend the kingpins of smuggling rackets. “Many Myanmar people are rendered jobless and have no stable sources of income due to the current political crisis there. Many of them were lured into smuggling activities,” the official said.

With the increase in heroin supply, the price of the drug has plummeted as “one ‘hawng’ of the narcotics substance (hawng is a local measurement equal to around 13-14 grams) is now available at Rs 15,000-18,000, while it was earlier sold at Rs 35,000 in the local market”, he said.

Mizoram Inspector General of Police (Headquarters) John Neihlaia also said the increase in the number of seizures and dip in heroin prices are linked to the Myanmar crisis. The number of Myanmar nationals held with drugs by the state police has increased from 12 in 2021 to 35 in 2022 (till August), he said.

“Of the 35 people arrested this year, three were refugees, who were staying at relief camps in the state,” Neihlaia said. Altogether 30,401 people from Myanmar have crossed the international border and taken refuge in the northeastern state after the neighbouring country’s military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi there in February last year, state Home Minister Lalchamliana informed the assembly earlier this month.

According to Neihlaia, the state police only had in 2021 seized many contrabands, including 15.79 kg of heroin and 153.77 kg of Methamphetamine tablets, altogether worth Rs 51.83 crore.

Till September 16 this year, the state police have recovered various drugs, including 22.93 kg of heroin and 101.26 kg of Methamphetamine tablets, with a total value of Rs 39 crore, according to the data accessed by PTI.

“Some drug rackets are operating from outside the state and enticed many Mizos into smuggling groups. Many of the locals, who had earlier wanted to give up such illegal activities, are being lured,” she said.

Another official, who chose to be anonymous, said Champhai district in the eastern part of Mizoram, which shares a border with Myanmar, has replaced Manipur’s Moreh as the main transit route to bring in smuggled goods, including wildlife animals.

Mizoram shares a 510-km long porous border with the neighbouring country. Despite massive efforts by law enforcement agencies, including Assam Rifles, smugglers have managed to enter Mizoram, he added. The significant increase in smuggling activities in the state has also prompted the central committee of the Young Mizo Association to form an anti-drug squad on September 9.