Now, Congress, NCP ministers lock horns over poppy farming | mumbai | Hindustan Times
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Now, Congress, NCP ministers lock horns over poppy farming

A fresh battle has started between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). This time senior ministers are blaming each other for turning a blind eye to the illegal poppy farming in parts of western Maharashtra and Marathwada.

mumbai Updated: Mar 06, 2012 01:03 IST
HT Correspondent

A fresh battle has started between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). This time senior ministers are blaming each other for turning a blind eye to the illegal poppy farming in parts of western Maharashtra and Marathwada.

Cultivation of poppy, which is used for production of opium, is illegal. It can be cultivated for medicinal purpose through prior approval and under strict control.

Last week, the state police raided farmers in Beed and Sangli districts for cultivating the crop. Many farmers were arrested and their crop destroyed.

Home minister RR Patil, who is an NCP leader, blamed the agriculture and revenue departments for the failure in preventing the opium farming. During a press conference in his home district Sangli last week, Patil had said that the police would take action against the officers from the two departments.

However, the statement created a stir in the Congress, which heads the agriculture and revenue departments.

Agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil, who was in Kolhapur, reacted sharply to Patil's charge.

"The police are aware of what goes on in a village or even the Mantralaya. What I don't understand is why they had no clue about poppy farming being carried out in their respective regions?" he asked.

However, revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat was more constrained in his reaction, saying there was no point blaming any particular department.

"What we [the home, revenue and agriculture departments] need to do is take action together and stop the menace," he said.

Vikhe-Patil said he too was in favour of joint action.

While ministers exchanged charges, local leaders in Beed and Sangli saw politics in the entire episode.

"The voters in these areas did not vote for a particular party in the government. This sudden action could be a result of the politics of vendetta," said a farmers' leader, on condition of anonymity.