Opium cultivators in Rajasthan’s Kota are busy with a unique practice of applying vermilion on opium poppy to seek divine blessing for higher yields.
The ritual of applying vermillion on opium poppy is a common practice among cultivators in Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh where opium grown, says Bhawani Shankar Dhartipakad, an opium grower from Kota.
He says growers are these busy lancing the opium pods to extract the milky gum that will be sold to the Central Bureau of Narcotics, next month.
He however, adds that seeking divine intervention has a “flip side” besides praying for higher yields.
“Cultivators have to achieve the minimum qualifying yield, set by the central bureau of narcotics to be eligible for a grower licence for the following year, so we seek blessings of Goddess Kali for higher yield,” says Dhartipakad, who cultivates opium in his field in Hingonia village in Kota’s Sangod.
Madan Meena, a researcher on local traditions, says he has never seen vermilion being applied on opium poppy, before.
“There is no such ritual of applying vermillion or worshipping any crop in Rajasthan before the produce is harvested,” he says.
“Applying vermilion on opium poppy is certainly a rare ritual.”
India is one of the few countries that legally grow opium poppy and the only country which legally produces opium gum. It is the largest legitimate producer of opium in the world and the drug is exported as well as used by the domestic pharmaceutical industry.
Opium is grown in the three states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and the cultivation is tightly regulated and controlled by the government and only permitted in notified tracts in these states.
In Rajasthan, opium cultivation is allowed in Chittorgarh, Bhilwara, Jhalawar, Kota, Udaipur and Baran districts.
The Centre announces an opium policy every year which sets out the terms and conditions subject to which licenses for the cultivation are given out to individual growers, says state deputy narcotics commissioner Sahi Ram Meena.
The government also identifies the areas where cultivation will be allowed, the prices at which the crop will be purchased by the Central Narcotics Bureau and the minimum qualifying yield for a license in the next crop year, he says.