Himansu Shekhar Rout

Is Odisha gradually turning into a narcotics hub? The question has started haunting the minds of everyone after Forest, Excise and police officials destroyed opium poppy plantations in acres of woodland in the Similipal sanctuary. 

So, who is behind this illegal farming and that too inside a sanctuary? How long this has been going on? Why did it take so long for the administration and the Forest Department to figure it out? 

Who is growing opium inside Similipal National Park in Odisha? A joint team's raid at a plantation site

In four phases, Forest, Excise officials and police have damaged opium poppy plantations worth Rs 40 crore inside the sanctuary.      

According to some local residents and observers, the price of poppy seeds used as spices is very high in various parts of the state while the same has been very cheap in local markets of Karanjia and Jashipur. It points to the fact that poppy seed farming has been going on in the area for a long time. 

Opium is produced from the sap in the fruits of poppy seed plants, and it is believed that the mafia is encouraging innocent tribals to take up poppy seed cultivation. The involvement of Maoists in this illegal farming cannot be ruled out.
Dakshikna Mohant, a local resident said, "Similipal has now become a safe haven for opium poppy farming. We wonder how this illegal farming has been going on in the area even though the forest officials and police have been patrolling the area. This is happening in the knowledge of the administration.”

Bhanumitra Acharya, former honorary wildlife conservator said, “Forest and revenue staff are inside the sanctuary. NGOs are working while police are often entering the area. When such a huge government system is working, how could this happen inside a sanctuary.”

Rashi Rajyalaxmi Bhanjadeo, the royal scion of Mayurbhanj said, "Mafia are working there. Only innocent people are caught.” 

According to the Odisha Forest Department, there are 36/37 villages in the core area of Similipal. The opium poppy is cultivated in two or three villages. The Excise department says there are several other areas where opium poppy is being cultivated and the plantations will be destroyed soon.

Baripada RCCF, Prakash Chand Gogineni said, "When the plants started flowering, our staff reported that opium poppy cultivation is being carried out. The plantations have been destroyed. We are collecting status reports about how much was destroyed and how much has been left out.”

Excise superintendent of Mayurbhanj, Prashant Kumar Kanra said, "We got information about this farming towards the end of February. Raids will be carried out. The public should cooperate with us to completely destroy the crops.”

  • Reported by:
  • MANIK Lal PANI , Deepak Mahanta