Inter-state opium smugglers financing poppy cultivation in Jharkhand: police
The forests in Jharkhand’s Chatra, about 200km from the state capital Ranchi, once known for its medicinal plants, are fast becoming infamous for illegal opium cultivation.ranchi Updated: Jan 06, 2017 21:33 IST
The forests in Jharkhand’s Chatra, about 200km from the state capital Ranchi, once known for its medicinal plants, are fast becoming infamous for illegal opium cultivation.
Opium smugglers from a number of states, including Jharkhand are financing impoverished farmers in the tribal-dominated district to cultivate the illegal crop, police said.
The financers purchase the products from farmers and then sell it in different parts of the country.
In the past one month, the Sadar police arrested four people with opium. One of the arrested persons was from Gurudaspur in Punjab and another from Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh. The duo was in Ranchi to purchase opium, police said.
Despite a ban, poppy is being cultivated on a large scale in Rajpur, Pratappur, Jori and Sadar police station areas of the district.
“Inter-state opium smugglers and traders provide pump sets and other implements to farmers to grow the crop,” a senior police official, who did not wish to named, said.
“Opium is cultivated mostly on barren land, banks of rivers and the forest land,” he said.
“Farmers also grow opium in the remote hilly tracts so that it is difficult to destroy the crop with tractors.”
Once the opium smugglers finance farmers to grow poppy, they get a right over the purchase of the produce and after the poppy is possessed, these financers deduct the amount given to farmers, a local journalist, who did want to be named, said.
The entire network functions clandestinely, said Umesh Ravidas, a member of Babhne panchayat in Pratapur. “If we come to know about people financing cultivation of poppy, we tie them up and take their money. Villagers along with police destroy the crop,” he said.
Farmers refuse to disclose the identities of financers and even their mobile phone numbers are not traceable, said Sampat Meena, inspector general of police (criminal investigation department). “We are in touch with our counterparts in Bihar and West Bengal to track people connected with the inter-state opium trade,” she said.
The police are also unable to identify poppy growers as most of them do not own the land on which they cultivate poppy and when the police team reaches a spot where opium is grown, villagers lock their houses and hide in the hillocks and forest.”
Official figures states that more than 260 acres of opium crops was destroyed between April 1, 2015 and March 31, 2016.
Sampat further said that police have started an awareness drive at the police station level on the ill effects of opium cultivation.
“Elected representatives are being told to provide information about opium cultivation in their respective areas. A number of villagers have destroyed the crops and we are getting a positive response.”
Poppy is widely grown in a number of districts in the state, including Chatra, Khunti, Palamau and Latehar.