Even as cops in Himachal struggle to curtail the burgeoning narcotic trade, this year the rural folk under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act will not be employed to destroy the cannabis that grows in the wild and on farmlands.
Police and Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) have been jointly campaigning to destroy the cannabis and poppy growth scattered in Shimla, Sirmour, Chamba, Mandi, Kullu and in parts of Kangra district.
Apart from its own force, police had been employing rural people under MNREGA to destroy poppy and hemp plants. However this time, police will carry out the work on their own.
“Right now we don’t have a proposal to destroy cannabis and poppy under MNREGA,” said director general of police Sanjay Kumar. Instead of engaging the rural people, cops will engage the services of home guards, jawans apart from cops from the district police and different police battalions.
“Hemp and poppy plant removal could not be entertained as standalone activity under MNREGA. There are cases where cannabis is removed but that is under land development activity,” said BD Sharma, deputy director of the rural development department, adding that under MNREGA there was provision for removing unwanted shrubs under land development activity.
Police will once again use satellite imagery to destroy the cannabis that largely grows in the wild and farm lands in the Kullu district. “Cannabis destruction campaign will begin shortly. Plans will be drawn in accordance with the satellite imageries provided by the NCB,” said inspector general (CID Narcotics) Satwant Atwal Trivedi.
Satellite imageries show a shift in cannabis and poppy cultivation. “Satellite images found some new areas which were not mapped last year”, said Trivedi adding, “It appears those involved in narcotic trade have found new fields to grow cannabis.” Varieties of Marijuana grown in wilderness in Kullu Valley have become world famous and are in high demand in the international market. Charas extracted from hemp plants is in demand both in the domestic and international markets. According to conservative estimates, about 60,000 kg charas is produced in different areas of the state and the narcotic trade in Himachal has a turnover worth Rs 2,000 crore annually.
During the cannabis destruction campaign, police found hybrid varieties of hemp plants that were different from the ones growing in the wild.
The survey conducted by the Narcotics Control Bureau reveals that nearly 2,500 villages across Kullu, Mandi, Chamba, Kangra, Shimla and Sirmour depend on drug money for their livelihoods.