Struggling to curb the booming narcotics trade, the Himachal Pradesh government has now decided to seek unmanned aerial vehicle from the home ministry for collecting intelligence, surveillance and for aerial reconnaissance of cannabis and poppy growing areas in rugged terrains of the state.
Health minister Kaul Singh Thakur, while representing chief minister Virbhadra Singh at national security council meet to be held on June 5, apart from raising several other issues concerning the state's security will also seek unmanned aerial vehicle to track down smugglers.
The narcotics trade in the state has attained alarming proportions with international drug mafia operating actively. 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.
Initiatives launched by the government to curb the burgeoning narcotics trade in Himachal Pradesh so far have failed to acquire the desired results. The problems are more in scenic Kullu valley, where high mountainous regions which are deprived from road connectivity over years, has become breeding grounds for narcotics trade.
To escape the eyes of anti-narcotics agencies, smugglers choose deep woods and forests in Kullu district to cultivate hybrid varieties of cannabis that have been smuggled from Russia, Nepal and Netherlands.
To keep an eye on forest areas at one time, the state police department had mooted a proposal to train the cops in paragliding so that they can keep surveillance in the forest areas. However, the plan did not get through.
“It's difficult to keep surveillance in deep forest areas,” Kullu superintendent of police Vinod Kumar Dhawan said.
The police and the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) have been jointly campaigning in the state to destroy poppy fields in six districts of the state, including Kullu, Mandi, Kangra, Chamba, Sirmour and Kinnaur. However, what is worrisome that these campaigns have had little impact on illegal trade.
Charas extracted from hemp plants is high in demand both in the domestic and international market. According to the conservative estimates, about 60,000 kg of charas is produced in different areas of the state.
With little resources, the state police find it tough to control the drug trade. The police had mulled to use chemicals to destroy the hemp plants in the wild, but environment protection agencies have reservation over the plan.
“Aerial reconnaissance will help significantly to keep tab on the illegal drug trade,” said inspector general of police (law and order) Sanjay Kundu. “Unmanned aerial vehicle is the best option for keeping the surveillance of poppy and cannabis-growing areas,” he added.
Opium extracted from poppy in Himachal Pradesh finds its way into north Indian states of Haryana and Punjab, while some portion of produce is smuggled into the parched areas of Rajasthan.
The state police claim that the opium production in the state has declined by nearly 60%. However, in Kullu district, poppy cultivation is confined to Banjar, Malana, Bhelang, Melandar and Ani areas and interiors of Mandi district have emerged as the centre point for poppy cultivation.
Poppy was grown in large areas of Chuhar valley, Balh Ropa, SilBadhnai and Sadhar.
Police seek rise in central assistance
The police have demanded a rise in central assistance being provided to the state. The annual central assistance of Rs 10 crore has been reduced to Rs 2 crore. Reduction in central assistance has adversely impacted the state police's modernisation drive. Besides, the state has sought a National Disaster Response Force for the state.