Demonetisation effect: Himachal narcotics trade hit hard, peddlers hunt for cash
Narcotics peddlers in Himachal Pradesh are reeling under the impact of demonetisation and finding it difficult to sell their stock in the absence of higher-value currency, according to officials in charge of cracking down on the illegal trade.
What’s more, some peddlers have apparently been forced to look at using the banking machinery and even making online payments, while trying not to attract attention.
Incidentally, demonetisation has closely followed the state’s annual drive against the drug trade. Since the launch of the drive in September, the government has destroyed more than 35 million psychoactive plants grown across nearly 30,000 bighas of land.
“There is a lull in narcotics trade in Himachal since the demonetisation move. Peddlers are busy exchanging old currency bills for new ones. Some of them are also making online payments,” said Kaustav Sharma, Regional Director of the Narcotics Control Bureau, Chandigarh. “There is no data to analyse it, but our sources say peddlers are busy converting money. There are reports that some of them are investing in properties.”
Sharma added, “Recently we apprehended two persons from banks when they were trying to cash cheques given to them by drug peddlers.” He declined to share details of the operations.
Police corroborated witnessing a decline in the narcotics trade. “It’s difficult to assess the impact since it’s all illegal, but demonetisation has had an impact,” said Padam Chand, superintendent of police, Kullu. “The drug detection rate is the same as before demonetisation, but quantity of seizure from peddlers now is much less.”
Kullu’s BJP legislator Maheshwar Singh, scion of the erstwhile Kullu dynasty, said, “Demonetisation has had its impact on the prices of locally produced charas (name given to the hashish form of cannabis). Peddlers are finding it difficult to sell their stock as new currency is limited. I have told people of Malana village to deposit their savings in the bank.”
Malana village in Kullu is famous for its high-quality charas produce, Malana Cream, which won the world’s best hashish title twice at a cannabis festival held by a magazine. But Malana residents are reluctant to talk about charas or drug money.
“Whatever money we have is being deposited in the bank,” said Bhagi Ram, head of Malana panchyat. “Since the nearest bank from the village is 35 km away, people usually keep money with themselves,” he added, steering clear of any talk about drug money.
The valleys of Kullu, famous for natural splendour, are also notorious for cannabis cultivation. “Apart from Kullu and Manali, Kasol and Sainj have emerged as new trading centres for selling charas,” said Sharma.
Agencies involved in anti-drug campaign value the annual drug trade in the state at Rs 2,000 crore, while insisting that it is a conservative estimate.
Kullu and Manali towns have gained notoriety for drug peddling backed by international cartels. During the drive against drug trade this year, police came across cannabis plants unlike any they had seen. “In some places, the cannabis plants were more than 12-ft high. It was unusual. Indian cannabis does not grow to this extent,” said deputy inspector general of police (crime) Vinod Dhawan, who was once the district police chief of Kullu.
Police believe locals dabbling in the trade cultivated hybrid seeds brought in by foreigners.
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