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Poppy cultivation in HP declines, cannabis continues to grow

Initiatives launched by government to curb burgeoning narcotic trade in Himachal Pradesh appears to have gained success, if one goes by police records. Gaurav Bisht reports.

india Updated: Aug 31, 2010 20:47 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindustan Times

Initiatives launched by government to curb burgeoning narcotic trade in Himachal Pradesh appears to have gained success, if one goes by police records. The areas under poppy cultivation has recorded drastic decline while the cannabis growth has marginally gone up.

Police and Narcotic Control Bureau (NCB) had been jointly campaigning in the state to destroy poppy fields in six districts of the state, including Kullu, Mandi, Kangra, Chamba, Sirmour and Kinnaur.

"We tried everything possible to prevent the state from turning into Afghanistan; the campaign launched over past one decade has brought some results" Additional Director General of Police I.D Bhandhari told Hindustan Times over telephone from CID headquarter in Shimla. Next to Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh records highest growth of poppy in the country.

Opium extracted from poppy in Himachal Pradesh finds is way into north Indian states of Haryana and Punjab, while some portion of produce is smuggled into parched areas of Rajasthan. State police claims that the opium production in state has declined by nearly 60 per cent.

In the previous year police and NCB had destroyed opium in 2899 bighas of land. This year during season it could only find opium growth on 922 bighas of land.

"Constant campaigns to destroy the opium had proved a deterrent for poppy growers" observed Deputy Inspector General of Police (Crime) N Venugopal, while admitting that lot more was required to diversify people from poppy farming.

"There is need for providing locals with alternate crops" added N. Venugopal who during his stint as District Police Chief in Kullu had led successful campaign against cannabis trade.

While in Kullu district poppy cultivation is confined to Banjar , Malana, Bhelang, Melandar, Ani areas, interiors of Mandi district emerged as the centre point for poppy cultivation. Poppy was grown in large areas of Chuhar valley, Balh Ropa, SilBadhnai and Sadhar.

Fastly flourishing narcotic trade had led to debate over legalizing opium cultivation in the
state. Political leaders hailing from both major parties from Bharatiya Janta Party and the Congress advocated the peoples demand for legalising the trade. But the governments showed reluctance to heed to the demand which could have proved dangerous for the tranquil hill state. Major opium growing areas have recorded drastic decline this year. Last year the police
surveyed 150 bighas of land under opium cultivation but it could not find opium anywhere except on two bighas of tracts.

District Police Chief Sonal Agnihotri attributes the reduction in poppy growth to improved intelligence and better coordination between the government departments. "By Setting up random nakas in the areas known for opium smuggling have proved to be great success" says Sonal Agnihotri. To bring more seriousness to the ongoing campaign the police officers in Mandi ensured that at least one gazette officers accompany the raiding party.

"Presence of gazette officer gave more credence to raids" adds Agnihotri.

District Police Chief Agnohotri says that owing to better intelligence, detection of narcotic smuggling has increased. This year alone the police have booked 176 persons under NDPSC act for smuggling narcotics, while last year only 122 persons were arrested. Poppy grown in Mandi is smuggled to Haryana

Poppy is also grown in Chamba district bordering Doda area of Jammu and Kashmir in remote areas of Kehar, Tissa and Bharmour. Major portion of the contraband is supplied clandestinely to areas in Punjab particularly those where the population of migrant labourers is high.

But what is adding to the worries of the police is growing areas under cannabis , which grows wildly in the forest and is also cultivated by the villagers. Hemp plants traditionally used for making ropes have now become major source of quick buck earning. The marked for cannabis destruction which was estimated at 10,000 bighas has now grown to 12,000 bighas, with Kullu district being biggest breeding grounds for smugglinmg of charas.

First Published: Aug 31, 2010 20:43 IST