India is keen to expand the opium trade in order to....well...curtail the opium trade.
Here's the deal, according to Asia Times Online's Neeta Lal:
To curb trafficking in opium and its illegal derivatives, like heroin, India is planning to open up the trade in opiate-based pharmaceuticals to private companies. New Delhi is hoping for a boost in foreign exchange along with the deal. (So far, no barter arrangement of opium for Iranian oil has been worked out, though that would be a very clever riff on India's obsession with the British Empire).
India is one of the few countries in the world that legally grows poppies for the production of opium. But for about 50 years, the government has strictly controlled the entire trade -- from production to pricing and disposal / distribution. Licensed farmers were only allowed to sell poppy plants to two state-run opium and alkaloid factories that produce poppy straw concentrate. Now, private firms will be allowed to manufacture "narcotic alkaloids" like morphine and codeine, Lal explains.
Read on here to learn about doctors' concerns about the effects on pricing, and what the state has proposed to do to curb addiction and restrict illicit cultivation.