18 FIRs, 1,000 kanal land cleared: Kashmir declares war on poppy

ByAshiq Hussain, Srinagar
May 19, 2023 11:52 AM IST

Officials said 982 kanal land has been cleared of poppy this year between April 1 to May 17, up from 662 kanal in 2022

Since the beginning of April, authorities concerned have cleared 1,000 kanal (122 acres or 50 hectares) of land cultivating poppy, a source of opium and heroin across Kashmir.

Police and revenue officials have been carrying out poppy removal drive across Kashmir on a regular basis. (HT Photo)
Police and revenue officials have been carrying out poppy removal drive across Kashmir on a regular basis. (HT Photo)

Sharing the breakdown, officials said 662 kanal of land had been cleared by excise, revenue and police departments last year in the corresponding period, but the figure has reached 982 kanal this year between April 1 to May 17.

“We have destroyed the crop on a large scale. This year we have registered 18 first information reports (FIR) so far this year,” Jammu and Kashmir excise commissioner Pankaj Kumar Sharma said.

On Wednesday, Sharma, along with police and revenue officials participated in a crop removal drive at Dupatyar village of Bijbehara of south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Around 3 kanal and 10 marla of illicit cultivation in discrete patches was destroyed on the spot in Anantnag, while the crop was destroyed in various other villages of Kulgam and Shopian districts.

The official said illegal cultivation was concentrated in four south Kashmir districts including Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam. “Around 721 kanal poppy cultivation has been destroyed in these four districts,” Sharma said, adding, “In Kulgam alone, the figure is 450 kanal.”

Hundreds of farmers in Kashmir’s southern districts started growing poppy and bhang after the 1989 armed insurgency in Kashmir as the police and security forces concentrated on maintaining peace. As things improved over the years, the authorities have been conducting drives to clear the crop every year.

Sharma said law enforcement agencies continue to fight the menace of illicit cultivation of poppy and cannabis at ground level.

“We will take the struggle against narcotic crops to its logical conclusion,” he vowed.

He said the department is actively involved in organising awareness programmes at colleges, schools, block and village-level and involved religious scholars particularly imams and khateebs during the Friday prayers. “We will keep the momentum of such drives at full pace,” he said.

South Kashmir range excise and taxation officer (ETO) Hamid Ganaie said the drives to clear crops were largely held between April and May, the cultivation period of poppy. He said the authorities conduct field surveys across the Valley and then geo-coordinate those areas before launching the drives.

“No accurate data is available. There are dedicated teams who conduct the surveys and collect evidence after which drives start,” he said.

The cultivation of poppy and cannabis is banned in India, because opium, a highly intoxicating substance, is made out of poppy. However, poppy can be grown in small pockets and under strict supervision for medicinal use under a proper licence.

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