He and five others were caught on Sunday with prescription drugs worth Rs. 16 crore

Colonel Ajay Kumar Choudhury, Public Relations Officer of Press Information Bureau (Defence Wing), and five others, caught by the police on Sunday with pseudoephedrine tablets worth over Rs. 16 crore in the local market, were on Monday remanded in police custody till March 8 by the Thoubal Chief Judicial Magistrate. Col. Choudhury, however, said he had been framed. He said he agreed to go to Moreh with the five for sightseeing and was not aware that they were smuggling these prescription drugs in bags stashed in civilian jeeps. But the police are not convinced. Though most of the people in the group were civilians, they had pasted the “Army” label on their jeeps. They apparently tampered with the registration numbers of the vehicles and used fake number plates. The original number plates were found inside the jeeps.

Besides, Col. Choudhury is accused of using a plate to declare himself “PRO, Imphal, Government of India,” a non-existent post.

Sources said the Defence Ministry had already initiated disciplinary action against the Colonel and Brojendro Ngairangbam, a personnel of the 165 Bn Infantry. Members of Legislative Assembly, insurgent groups, women activists and NGOs have expressed shock at a ranking Army officer being allegedly involved in drug trafficking.

Opposition MLA Ibohanbi told journalists that for a long time people had suspected the involvement of powerful persons in this multimillion rupee business. Several proscribed underground organisations have used this incident to malign the Army, saying they are out to lobotomise the youths of the State by making drugs easily available.

On the other hand, the Cabinet has decided to hand over to the CBI the case in which pseudoephedrine tablets worth Rs 1.3 crore were seized from Tulihal airport early this month. The traffickers involved in that case have not been caught yet.

The police also drew flak for winding up the Special Intelligence Unit assigned for such seizures, shortly after this catch. But Home Minister G. Gaikhangam said he was not aware of this.

Most of the prescription drugs are smuggled out to Myanmar. By adding some ingredients another brand of the more powerful and addictive drug is sent back to Manipur for distribution in the north-east. Manipur has a high number of drug addicts as one can easily procure drugs here. .