Hundreds of addicts blocked a highway in Rajasthan’s Barmer district on Thursday while another allegedly attempted suicide to protest authorities banning from April 1 the trade of opium poppy husk, a drug that feeds a sprawling trafficking racket and thousands of users in the state as well as neighbouring Punjab.
Police forced open the thoroughfare but demonstrations continued against the prohibition that was delayed by a year after the state government sought an extension from the Centre in 2015, fearing law and order problems.
Sources said district resident Babulal, who was spooked by the ban, consumed poison on Wednesday night. His father, Himatram, told the media that he and his son have been using “doda post”, as the drug is locally known, for many years, but supply dried up this month.
“This government banned doda while supplying liquor publicly,” he said. “It is not justified.”
Legal cultivation of opium for medicinal purposes is carried out in parts of India under strict licensing conditions and under the watch of the Central Bureau of Narcotics.
According to the new directives in Rajasthan, while the sale of poppy husk and opium will be banned, production will continue for the healthcare sector.
Dinesh Bouddh, deputy narcotics commissioner for the bureau in the state said for 2015-16, opium cultivation licences have been given to 18,057 farmers and production worth 45,000 kilogram is expected by April.
While the Central Bureau of Narcotics procures opium, the byproduct, opium poppy husk, is bought by the state excise department.
The opium sells for around Rs 1,000 to Rs 3,000 a kg depending upon the quality while the husk fetches about Rs 125 per kg.
Observers say de-addiction drives launched by authorities have been less than encouraging.
Kheta Ram, a resident of Barmer’s Akdada village said he consumes five kilogram of doda every month. When he attended a de-addiction camp, doctors gave him medication that proved useless.
The government has also directed all district drug controllers to prevent black-marketing of the drug Tramadol that is used to rehabilitate opium users.
Bikaner’s chief medical and health officer Dr Devendra Choudhary told HT that his teams have treated 443 registered and four unregistered addicts at 20 government camps under the Naya Savera programme.
(With inputs from Urvashi Dev Rawal in Jaipur and HTC in Bikaner)