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Rampant smuggling of poppy husk goes on in MP as Centre, state bicker

The opium menace in rampant in Madhya Pradesh, as farmers sell their stock to middlemen and the Centre and the state continue to spar over who is responsible for the husk’s disposal.

india Updated: Jul 21, 2017 07:12 IST
Punya Priya Mitra and Mustafa Hussain
Punya Priya Mitra and Mustafa Hussain
Hindustan Times, Bhopal/Neemuch
Poppy,Poppy Husk,Opium
Doda chura (poppy husk) kept on the roof of a farmer’s house in Neemuch. According to insiders in the illegal trade, prices of poppy husk have shot up to Rs 5,000 per kg after the ban. (HT Photo)

Smuggling of poppy husk (doda chura) is at an all-time high in Madhya Pradesh with opium farmers sitting on around 56,000 quintals of the raw material in their farms and godowns.

The farmers are unsure of what to do with their stock, even as the Centre and the state governments slug it out over who will oversee the destruction of this huge quantity of poppy husk.

The dried leaves, stalk and seed pod are used in commercial manufacture of morphine or other poppy alkaloid derived drugs.

The central government had banned the sale of poppy husk from April 2016. Last year, the Central Bureau of Narcotics (CBN), the agency that oversees the licit cultivation and extraction of opium, had overseen the destruction of the poppy husk, but this year they appear reluctant to undertake the task. Several rounds of high-level meetings between the two have remained inconclusive so far.

The dried leaves, stalk and seed pod are used in commercial manufacture of morphine or other poppy alkaloid derived drugs (HT Photo)

As a result, smuggling of doda chura has become rampant, posing a major challenge for the state police and central law enforcement agencies across Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan as these two states account for more than 90% of the opium and therefore poppy husk production.

Lured by big money, some farmers are selling their stock illegally to middlemen and smugglers. On an average, a hectare of opium crop produces about 2.5-3 quintals of doda chura.

According to insiders in the illegal trade, earlier a kilogram of poppy husk sold for anywhere between Rs 500 Rs 1,000 per kg during the April-August season. But ever since its ban, prices have shot up to Rs 5,000 per kg in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Poppy husk is consumed mixed in tea or even taken with water mainly by truck drivers and is in huge demand in Punjab and Haryana.

Radheyshyam Dhangar, a poppy grower from Kararia Maharaj village in Neemuch district points to another dilemma being faced by the honest farmer: “There is no clarity. No one is telling us anything. Every day is spent is fear that someone will loot the doda chura from us,” he said.

According to police records, 44 cases of doda chura smuggling in Ratlam, Mandsaur and Neemuch have been registered in the last three months, and more than 76 quintals of the husk have been seized – a record of sorts.

The situation is no different in Rajasthan where 36 cases of doda chura smuggling have been registered and 73 quintals of husk seized between April and June.

Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) superintendent incharge of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh BR Meena said there has been a significant rise in smuggling of doda chura. “For some the temptation is too great, but we are keeping a constant watch on these activities,” he said.

BN Kumar, the opium officer in Neemuch, said their job ends with supervising the lancing of the poppy pod to extract opium, after that the dry plant and husks become the responsibility of the excise department.

The tussle between the Centre and the state seems to stem from the changed definition of poppy husk after its sale was banned last year.

A senior official in the Madhya Pradesh excise department said. “The CBN had destroyed it last year, what has changed this year that they are not doing it? We were working under Section 8 and 10 of the NDPS Act, on the premise that poppy husk had medicinal and scientific value, but after the Centre ruled that it has no medicinal and scientific value, all rules related to poppy husk have been repealed and we have nothing to do with it. We have written to the Central government around a fortnight ago, making our position very clear.”

First Published: Jul 21, 2017 07:10 IST