Suryakant Jena

Malkangiri: The Chitrakonda area of the tribal dominated Malkangiri district may have been labelled as the ‘Swabhiman Anchal’ by the State government, but farmers in several areas of the region have now adopted the forbidden practice of cannabis (ganja) farming as their source of livelihood raising questions over the government’s dedication towards the development of the area.

According to sources, extensive cannabis farming is prevalent in as many as 18 panchayats of the district. The farmers staying in these areas prefer to grow cannabis instead of traditional crops like paddy, moong and millets for several reasons.

“We suffer losses in growing cash crops due to lack of irrigation and other facilities. Besides, the government is also not providing any financial assistance so we are forced to adopt ganja farming,” said a farmer.

As per reports, cannabis farming is quite profitable and it does not need much care and can withstand harsh weather conditions and water scarcity. Besides, it is easy to maintain and harvest. On the other hand, growing cash crops is harder and earning profits from the harvest is subjected to weather condition and irrigation facilities.

This apart, rise in demand for narcotics like cannabis in and outside the State has also made the local mafia to promote the cultivation of the forbidden crop.

Experts say that lack of awareness and poor financial condition are forcing the farmers to go for cannabis farming. While they have questioned the rise in farming of the forbidden crop on the backdrop of government’s strict action against its cultivation, Excise Department has said that regular raids are being carried out to destroy the crop.

Excise official Ashok Seth said,“ Police and Excise Department have jointly destroyed 1877 acres of land with illegal ganja crops in last few months but lack of adequate security and vehicular communication through the region is proving a deterrent.”

Chitrakonda IIC Ram Prasad Nag also corroborated the statements of the Excise Department officials and assured that stringent action will be taken to curb ganja farming in the region.