With cops on overdrive, cannabis seizure in Odisha likely to cross 1,000 quintals this year

Published on Oct 06, 2020 12:02 PM IST

The seizures of cannabis have become frequent over the last 2-3 months as enforcement officials are intercepting more and more consignment of cannabis.

Policemen destroying cannabis cultivation in Odisha’s Boudh district .(HT PHOTO)
Policemen destroying cannabis cultivation in Odisha’s Boudh district .(HT PHOTO)
Hindustan Times, Bhubaneswar | ByDebabrata Mohanty

With a seizure of close to 1,000 quintals of cannabis so far, it has been a good year for the Odisha police, excise department and other agencies tasked to check the drug trade in the state.

While the Special Task Force and district police officials have seized over 900 quintals of cannabis in little over the last 9 months, other agencies like Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), state excise department as well as Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) have seized over 25 quintals in the same period.

The seizures have become frequent over the last 2-3 months as enforcement officials are intercepting more and more consignment of cannabis.

On the evening of October 4 police in Ganjam district seized 2.5 quintals of cannabis covered in PPE kits while they were being transported in an ambulance near Budhamba village under Kabisuryanagar police station area. Similarly, excise department officials early Monday morning seized 7 quintals of cannabis during a raid at Sargiguda village in Malkangiri district.

On October 3, Narcotics Control Bureau officials had seized 7 quintals of cannabis from a coir-filled truck near Godipada toll gate in Khurda. On September 8, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence seized 5.5 quintals of cannabis worth around 80 lakh in Bhubaneswar while it was being illegally transported in a vegetable truck.

“This year will be the most successful year for Odisha when it comes to enforcement activities to prevent cannabis smuggling. While Odisha police alone is likely to seize 1,000 quintals of cannabis by the end of this year, the combined seizure of other agencies would put Odisha in the top spot among all states when it comes to cannabis seizure,” said Jaynarayan Pankaj, deputy inspector general of police of Special Task Force that is mandated to go after cannabis smugglers.

Though last year Odisha police seized 618.15 quintals of cannabis, Pankaj said Odisha DGP Abhay’s focus on going after the cannabis smugglers persistently has been the key to higher seizures this year .

“As the DGP headed the Narcotics Control Bureau a few years ago he is laying greater stress on increasing the interception. So we are focussing more on districts like Koraput, Malkangiri, Kandhamal, Boudh, Rayagada and Gajapati where the crop is cultivated on a large scale in Maoist-affected areas. While Maoists are slowly losing control in the state, the pandemic also helped make things easy for us due to less number of vehicles on roads. It was easier for us to intercept the cannabis-laden vehicles as the traffic was less. But the biggest cause of higher seizure is due to sustained drive and better intelligence collection,” the DIG said.

The cultivation of cannabis starts in September at the end of the monsoon season when there is less humidity and the temperature drops. It requires quite a bit of sunshine and colder temperature. When the plants start budding, cannabis becomes ready for harvest. The buds are dried in the sun to make ganja, the most popular form of cannabis that is exported out of Odisha.

The hilly tracts of Maoist-affected Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada, Kandhamal districts have been the traditional areas for growth of cannabis. As it offers better returns than cereals, the tribals grow it with active patronage of the Maoists. The crop does not need much care and can withstand harsh weather conditions and water scarcity.

Excise department officials said in 2019-20, cannabis crops over 18,000 acres of area, the largest so far, were destroyed in Odisha. A multi-disciplinary committee headed by chief secretary has been formed for regular interaction with various state and central agencies for better coordination and sharing of information about the drug situation.

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