If Pakistan is said to be the root cause of Punjab’s drug problem, Jharkhand is a supporting agent. The drug menace in Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh ruining lives of youths in thousands every month have a strong connection with the hinterlands of Chatra, Latehar and parts of Palamu districts in north-western Jharkhand.
These areas have, of late, gained notoriety of turning into a hub for narcotics supply to the northern states. Drug peddlers from these states have established a strong nexus with the local traders who are supplying them illegally grown opium in bulk, police sources said.
The huge margin between the purchase and sale price of opium is also luring local youth into this illegal business. The investment doubles up, sometimes even giving more returns, within few days.
The menace of illegal drug abuse is particularly worrying as this has emerged as a serious problem among both the rural and the urban youth of the northern states, especially Punjab. Drug abuse was a major issue in the recently held Punjab assembly polls. Surfacing of names of several Akali leaders muddled in the drug racket gave opposition parties Congress and AAP to corner the ruling Akali-BJP alliance during campaigning.
Punjab and Jharkhand police recently blew the lid of the racket when they nabbed around 30 drug traffickers over the last two months, but there is no let-up in the malady as it continues to spread like wildfire despite concerted efforts by various departments of the state police force.
Acting on intelligence inputs and tip off from arrested peddlers, Jharkhand police have launched a special drive and have destroyed opium crop over 500 acres.
The first arrest in this regard took place around three months back when Chatra police nabbed a man hailing from Patiala who had come to purchase opium. A week later, Palamu police arrested two traffickers from Daltonganj railway station who were natives of Ludhiana. Three drug peddlers from UP’s Bareilly were also nabbed in Palamu on Wednesday.
The Punjab police also had nabbed four youths from Jhakhand, three of them belonging to Chatra, with 15 kg of opium from Amritsar.
All the arrests bear connections as they were either caught with the contraband or were trying to strike a deal with the local peddlers.
Chatra superintendent of police Anjani Kumar Jha told HT that Punjab, Haryana and western UP are the market for the illegal opium produced in Jharkhand’s Chatra and adjoining districts.
“Huge profit is drawing youths from both Jharkhand and Punjab into this trade. The opium that is on an average sold at Rs 55,000 per kg here easily gets them more than a lakh in Punjab and other places,” Jha said, adding that Punjab police had informed them about arrest of three youths from Chatra in drug trafficking case.
The Chatra SP was also awarded by the DGP for destroying nearly 300 acres of poppy, an officer highlighted.
Sensing the gravity of the alarming situation, the Jharkhand chief secretary Rajbala Verma recently held a video conference with the elected Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRI) representatives of 90 panchayats worst affected by poppy cultivation recently and sought their cooperation in curbing the menace.