Opium farmers of Mandsaur and Neemuch have complained that contractors purchasing ‘doda chura’ (poppy husk) from them are forcibly entering their houses and seizing their poppy husk.
The farmers have also alleged that the excise department is supporting the contractors who are using force and intimidation to rob them.
As per the complaint, on June 28, men working for one of the contractors forcibly entered the house of Govardhanlal Menaria in Babrecha village under Afzalpur police station and beat up his son Dr Mukesh, a medical officer working with the state government.
Menaria, who was allegedly being targeted by the goons, escaped injuries because he was not at home at the time of the incident.
In response, irate villagers marched to the local police station, but their attempts to lodge a complaint failed. As the news of the ill treatment meted out to Menaria spread, farmers assembled and gheraoed the superintendent of police’s (SP) office.
Congress leader Shyam Jogchand, who led the agitation at the SP office, alleged that this was not the first time a hush farmer was targeted, and similar incidents had taken place in Turkia and Semli too.
“There is lawlessness in the area and the excise department is supporting it,” the Congress leader said.
Under pressure, the Afzalpur police later registered case against Karulal Patidar and others under sections 323, 294, 506, 147 and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. Jogchand, however, has little hope of action as he believes the administration is hand in glove with the contractors.
This allegation gains credence from the fact that district excise officer Bhimrao Vaidh issued a statement that if the farmers do not handover their poppy husk to the contractors, they would be booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.
Farmers’ leader Umrao Gurjar argues that farmers are unwilling to give up their poppy husk to the government because they are getting only `125 per kg, as opposed to the farmers in Rajasthan who are getting between Rs 1,200 to Rs 1,500 per kg.
“The farmer should be given the option of giving the poppy husk or not,” Gurjar said.
Excise department officials who did not want to be quoted said the farmers do not want to part with their poppy husk because it fetches them around Rs 2,000 per kg in the black market. This year, the poppy husk auction went for an amazing Rs 150 crore.
Former Neemuch district Congress president and anti drug movement convenor Surendra Sethi alleged that the entire game is pre-planned. He alleged that the auction of poppy husk contracts was deliberately delayed giving time for the poppy husk mafia to move in and purchase the poppy husk at a rate of around Rs 1,500 to Rs 1,000 per kilogram and now there is a shortage of poppy husk among the farmers.