Digital eyes to watch over Asia’s biggest opium processing plant in Neemuch

  • Milind R Lashkari and Mustafa Hussain, Hindustan Times, Indore/Neemuch
  • Updated: Jul 28, 2015 19:38 IST

The recent ransacking and gang war incidents in Neemuch and its surrounding areas have driven the “Government Opium and Alkaloid Works” — Asia’s biggest opium alkaloid processing plant — to upgrade its security measures.

As part of the upgrade, 60 CCTVs have been installed in various places in its campus, including 32 at just the laboratory situated inside the plant.

Apart from the CCTVs, since the campus is a restricted area, about 100 CISF jawans have been deployed to guard the area round -the-clock and no employee is allowed to enter or exit the plant without a thorough security check.

The processing plant is responsible for storing large quantities of row opium — creamy latex derived from poppy plants — procured from local farmers and processing it to manufacture morphine, narcotine and codeine phosphate.

As the opium grading season is in progress, opium collected from over 25,000 licensed poppy growers from Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have been stored at the processing plant. Till date, half the grading work has been completed.

Every year, about 800 to 1,000 tonnes of opium is stored at the processing plant for gradation. On the basis of the grading results, the government makes payments to the farmers for their crops and this ranges from Rs 1,400 to 3,500 per kilogram, depending about the quality and grade of opium.

Speaking to HT, the newly appointed processing plant general manager, Hainarayan Meena confirmed the upgrade of the security arrangements. “As the testing, gradation and processing of by-products is done at the laboratory situated inside the campus, 32 CCTVs will keep an eye on the lab only. The lab functions as per the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act and no employee can enter or exit without a strict security check,” Meena said.

The Malwa-Mewar belt spanning across western Madhya Pradesh and southern Rajasthan, in which Neemuch is situated, is home to 38,000 of the 44,000 hectares of licensed opium cultivation in the country. The area is one of the few places in the world where poppy is lawfully cultivated.

The lawful price of opium has remained static for a long time while its price in black market has shot up recently and with that, the area has become a hotbed of opium smuggling.

Umarsingh Gurjar, a poppy cultivator in Neemuch said, “Government procurement prices and rising cost of cultivation and labour often leaves the farmers with no choice but to sell their crop to smugglers. With the smugglers offering a much better deal at prices ranging from `8,000 to 1,00,000 per kilogram, farmers may find it to be a lucrative offer for their crops”.

More About Opium

Poppy has a short growing season from September to March. It needs expertise to extract opium from poppy. Farmers generally slit poppy bulbs to ‘bleed’ opium — a dark, creamy, thick latex-like fluid. Farmers slit the bulbs in the evening and collect opium early next morning

The government sets a minimum qualifying yield (MQY) at the beginning of the season. MQY is the cornerstone of the control mechanism. If a farmer fails to meet MQY per hectare, he/she loses their cultivating licence.

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