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Poppy menace kills three in Bengal village

Villagers, who concealed poppy seeds and flower parts in sacks in a well, died when they descended into the well in a Malda village to retrieve the produce to sell it to prospective buyers.

kolkata Updated: Apr 15, 2017 11:39 IST
Sreyasi Pal
Sreyasi Pal
Hindustan Times
Poppy,Malda,West Bengal
Malda’s infamy for illegal poppy cultivation is matched only by the districts notoriety for being the hub of fake currency notes of the country. (HT Photo)

The illegal poppy menace took three lives Malda district of West Bengal on Thursday night when they descended in a well to retrieve illegally hoarded poppy and poppy seed pods. The well was full of toxic gas that they inhaled leading to the death of two of them at the spot, while one later died in at Malda Medical College and Hospital.

Two others are admitted to another hospital.

The incident happened late on Thursday night in Mominpara village under Kaliachak police station. Incidentally, Kaliachak and Baishnabnagar are infamous for illegal poppy cultivation, apart from being the country’s hub for fake currency notes. Both these areas are close to the border with Bangladesh.

Read: Malda administration to hire drones to identify poppy producing areas

Those killed were identified as Anarul Sheikh (32), Kausar Momin and Rabi Momin (20). Those who are undergoing treatment in a hospital are Muklesur Momin (24) and Based Sheikh (27).

A senior doctor of Malda Medical College and Hospital said, “The symptoms indicate that the three inhaled some poisonous gas. But we can be certain only after the autopsy.”

The administration has taken strict steps to curb illegal poppy cultivation in the district including deployment of drones for aerial survey of the fields. ( HT Photo )

A senior officer of Kaliachak police station said, “We have asked people not to go inside the well. We are trying to find out who came to purchase the poppy and the flowers peel.”

Significantly, in 2016 the excise department destroyed illegal poppy plants on more than 12,200 bigha land in Malda district. But none has any clear idea about the exact quantity of illegal poppy production in Malda last year. However, there was almost no production this year thanks to strong administrative action this year. Unable to sell a large quantity of last year’s produce, the traders hoarded poppy and other related items such as opium, poppy flowers’ petals. The prices of these commodities have also gone up.

Read: Malda’s dirty money: How Bengal district became India’s fake notes capital

Local sources said on Thursday night some persons came to Kausar Momin’s house to buy poppy seeds, opium and other items. It is believed last year, Momin had a bumper crop and he hid it in a well so that none could find it.

Lured at the prospect of sale, Momin descended into the well with his brother Rabi to fetch the bags. When the two brothers didn’t emerge, Kausar Momin’s wife sought the help of some villagers to rescue them. Neighbours Anarul Sheikh (32), Muklesur Momin (24) and Based Sheikh (27) climbed down the well to rescue them.

“In January 2016 some narcotics traders vandalised the Kaliachak police station and burnt important documents against the smugglers. But we didn’t have the idea that some of them concealed the production in wells too,” said a senior police officer of the district.

Rahamat Miyan, a villager said, “When Kausar and Rabi didn’t emerge from the well, we thought a genie devoured them.”

Villagers found several bags inside the well which were full with poppy and poppy flowers peel.

First Published: Apr 15, 2017 11:39 IST