Poppy husk destruction dilemma: Govt mulling self-certification to avoid annoying farmers in election year
The state government is thinking of allowing self-certification by farmers themselves in the matter of destruction of doda chura (poppy husk), because many farmers have illegally sold their poppy husk in the black market and will run foul on the law if the poppy husk is weighed before destruction.bhopal Updated: Jan 11, 2018 17:25 IST
Wary of antagonizing the farmers of Mandsaur\Neemuch districts where a protracted agitation saw death of six farmers to police bullets and lathis last June, the state government is thinking of allowing self-certification by farmers themselves in the matter of destruction of doda chura (poppy husk), because many farmers have illegally sold their poppy husk in the black market and will run foul on the law if the poppy husk is weighed before destruction.
Principal Secretary, (excise), Manoj Shrivastava said that they were ‘actively considering’ allowing self-certification in the matter of destruction of poppy husk and it would be announced shortly. He justified the policy by saying that even Rajasthan was following it and refused to comment on the illegal sale of poppy husk.
Trade of poppy husk, which is made by crushing the poppy bulb after extraction of opium, has been made illegal by Central government, and 32,000 odd farmers of the region are holding (or supposed to be holding) 56,000 quintals of poppy husk for the past one year, due to policy indecision on part of the state and central government, regarding whose responsibility it was to get the poppy husk destroyed. Now the state government has taken the onus upon itself to destroy it.
The authorities well know that a large quantity of the poppy husk has been sold illegally in the black market where prices range from Rs 3000 to Rs 5000 per quintal as there is huge demand of poppy husk in Punjab, Haryana and other parts of north India where it is consumed with tea or water, mainly by truckers.
“It is a fact that many farmers have sold their poppy husk and many farmers will have a tough time explaining where the poppy husk has ‘disappeared’ if it is strictly weighed by officials before destruction” said farmer leader and office-bearer of Patidar Samaj, Mahesh Patidar.
That there has been rampant smuggling of poppy husk can be gauged from the fact that according to figures of the Narcotics wing of the Madhya Pradesh police, over 80 quintal of poppy husk, a record in itself, been seized in the area by police in the last six months.
The excise department too realizes this problem. Says Neemuch district excise officer, Bhimrao Vaidya, “Possibility of law and order problem cannot be ruled out as the farmers will have to be booked under the draconian NPDS Act.”
A senior local BJP leader said, “BJP is on the back-foot due to the farmer’s agitation last year and we cannot afford to anger them once again in this election year. We had demanded self-certification during a meeting with the chief minister recently as that is the best possible solution.”
At present, all the district officials are waiting for the policy announcement and trying to shift the onus from one department to another, because in private they are aware of the likely problems if poppy husk is weighed before destruction.
Mandsaur collector O P Shrivastava initially said that it was up to the excise department, but when pointed out that the excise commissioner Arun Kochar had said that the work of destruction would have to done by the concerned collector, said, “We are waiting to get details from the Narcotics Control Bureau regarding how much poppy husk should be produced in one hectare.”