Tackling the menace: Kullu women join war against drug mafia
Rural women in Himachal have joined a long drawn war against the drug mafia active in the region for over the last three decades. Kullu district’s Diyar panchayat has decided to impose Rs 1,000 fine on persons caught consuming liquor and drugs in public places.
“For years we have been telling the police to take steps to check the burgeoning drug and liquor trade, but time has come that we take initiative on our own. We have passed a resolution in the gram sabha to impose the fine on each person found involved in drug or liquor trade besides those found drinking in public places,” said Manorama Thakur, Diyar panchayat pradhan.
“We are encouraging the nearby panchayats to join the initiative,” she said.
The move came after the Kullu police launched a drive ‘Sehbhagita Aapki Aur Humari’ in February this year to motivate women and youth to fight the increasing drug menace in the district which is known world over for cannabis cultivation.
A growing problem
The drug trade in Kullu district alone is estimated at Rs 2,000 crore annually. The burgeoning drug menace in the district has been a cause of concern for successive governments, but they have failed to chalk out an effective strategy to contain drug cartels that have been active in the region for past three decades.
Traditionally, the villagers in Kullu used hemp fibre to make basket ropes and slippers, which were sold in the market. However, the foreigners visiting the landlocked villages in the late 70's taught villagers to rub charas plant to extract intoxicating resin. Villagers then took up the drug trade to turn their fortune.
Locals cultivate hybrid seeds of marijuana brought by foreigners. The high hybrid varieties are sold under different brands such as skunk, red hair, turbo diesel, early girl, white widow, flower power, morning California, haze skunks and AK-47. Besides the marginal villages of Kullu, the menace has spread to others parts of state including the Chuhar valley of Mandi district, Tissa in Chamba and Bara Bhangal area of Kangra, where people have abandoned cultivation of other crops.
The cost of cannabis, which is produced locally, is anywhere between Rs 50,000 and Rs 60,000 per kilogram, depending upon quality of the charas extracted from plants.
High hopes from initiative
Started by Kullu superintendent of police Shalini Agnihotri, the campaign aimed to encourage women and youth to tackle the menace of drug peddlers and cartels. Police had written letters asking the mahila mandals and the volunteers of Nehru Yuva Kendra to join them in the war against drugs.
“There is a target to involve all the 3,500 Nehru Yuva Kendras and mahila mandals to join us. So far, the results are encouraging. Women have started to come forward,” Agnihotri said. “The rural women in the valley now also play the role of police informer as they apprise the cops of illegal drug trade,” she said.