Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from their poppy fields. Opium is used in heroine production, and massive opium crops mean cheaper drugs. (NOORULLAH SHIRZADA / AFP)
Afghan farmers harvest opium sap from their poppy fields. Opium is used in heroine production, and massive opium crops mean cheaper drugs. (NOORULLAH SHIRZADA / AFP)

Bihar police books landowners for illegal opium cultivation to check the menace

  • Confirming that the police had recently destroyed opium crops, the SSP said Maoists have raised opium in over 500 acres of land in Barachatti, Dhangai, Dobhi and Mohanpur area.
PUBLISHED ON MAR 02, 2021 09:22 AM IST

Bihar police have begun lodging FIRs against the original landowners, whose lands are being used for cultivation of opium, in a crackdown on the illegal farming and trade of the contraband. So far, cases against 18 landowners in Gaya and two in Jamui have been filed for letting use of farms for cultivation of opium.

The forested and hilly areas of Gaya, Jamui and Nawada in Bihar became notorious for illegal opium cultivation over the past two decades since authorities failed in effective action. The periodic destruction of crops and lodging of cases against those engaged in cultivation of opium while sparing the landowners, did little to stem the thriving trade and the contraband crop kept resurfacing on the same fields.

Experts, however, remain sceptical if the new approach will be able to uproot the illegal trade considering the growing scale of opium production, called ‘afim’ locally. They also ask if the law can be enforced in areas where anti-government militias are active and when even politicians are alleged to be involved in the drug trade.

Officials in the Bihar police headquarters claim Maoist sympathizers are engaged in opium farming in land located near the Jharkhand border, which can’t be accessed through motor able roads. “Locate crops using drones and satellite images by separate teams of central reserve police force (CRPF), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), narcotics control bureau (NCB) and destroy them right before they get ready for harvesting,” an official said, suggesting a way to tackle the menace.

The official quoted above noted other reasons for the trade to flourish. He said lack of employment and quality education in these areas and limited infrastructure drove people to this. He said since most of the illegal farming is done on forest department land, identification of the real grower becomes difficult.

Gaya SSP Aditya Kumar said all previous cases were of possession or seizure of illicit opium and other drugs. This was the first-time that cases were filed against illegal opium farming. People are growing opium as a cash crop to make fast and easy money, he added.

Confirming that the police had recently destroyed opium crops, the SSP said Maoists have raised opium in over 500 acres of land in Barachatti, Dhangai, Dobhi and Mohanpur area. The operation will continue till the last opium plant was uprooted, he added.

Police said that besides extortion, earnings from narcotics remain an important source of Maoist funding. The money thus gained is spent on procurement of weapons and maintenance of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army, the armed wing of the CPI (Maoist).

In Jamui, a joint team of CRPF, NCB and district police destroyed the standing opium crop in five acres of land in Chakai police station area of the district.

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Jamui SP Pramod Kumar Mandal said two separate FIRs have been lodged against the landowners. “The sowing of poppy crops begins in November while the harvesting takes place mid-March. The crops are generally grown on fields located beside rivers and in deep forests in order to avoid detection,” he added.

According to the officials of SSB Frontier headquarters, Patna, the security personnel have so far destroyed a maximum of about 325 acres of opium crop in Gaya, followed by Jamui and Khunti in Jharkhand since January 1, 2021.

A senior CRPF official pointed out that each poppy crop destruction effort is classified as a special operation because of the risks involved. “There are times when the forces have to think hard about entering the fields because there could be an ambush waiting for them”, he added.

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