Column: Need To Step Up the Campaign Against Cannabis

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: A joint team of police and excise officials recently raided ganja (cannabis) plantations tucked away in a forest in Gajapati district. The team destroyed ‘grass’ worth around Rs.15 crore in the market. This was the second such raid on a ganja plantation in Gajapati in the last one week.

Police in Boudh are also cracking down on illegal cannabis farming and trade. Earlier this week they destroyed ganja plants growing over several acres at Tilpanga within Manamunda police limits of the district.

With huge profits involved illegal ganja cultivation and smuggling has turned into a major concern for police and excise officials in Odisha. Focus has been on districts like Gajapati, Malkangiri, Kandhmal and Boudh where plantations hidden in forests and hills are hard to detect. A few months ago police had seized 170 quintals of cannabis in Koraput district and arrested seven persons from Uttar Pradesh in this connection.

The consignment despatched from Malkangiri, a well known haven of illegal ganja growers and smugglers, was being routed to UP via Koraput. Both Malkangiri and Koraput are Maoist bastions with the ultras reportedly having a stake in the cannabis trade. If sources are to be believed money from cannabis trade is used to fund their subversive operations.

Regular seizures and arrests notwithstanding enforcement authorities in the state have been struggling to curb the rampant cultivation of ganja. Not long ago authorities had drawn up a plan to identify cannabis plantations in various parts of the state through satellite imagery to ensure targeted action. But the fate of the plan remains unknown.

Sources said that the plan faced a major hurdle when the agency which had been entrusted with the task of identifying cannabis plantations was unable to make a beginning for want of specific intelligence inputs about the location if plantations in districts such as Angul, Deogarh, Boudh, Kandhamal, Rayagada, Gajapati and Malkangiri. Incidentally most of these districts are known for Maoist activities.

Though plantations in some areas have been destroyed by joint teams of police and excise departments even without the aid of satellite imagery, a technology-assisted drive is bound to yield much better results. However, even the success of the satellite technology depends a lot on specific intelligence inputs about the location of cannabis farms. That makes the job of satellite imaging of the plantations easier and could pave the way for precise and fool-proof action against the growers.

Intelligence gathering is of vital importance also because of the fact that the growers, keenly aware of the likelihood of being raided any time, keep changing their locations frequently. They move to new areas at the slightest hint of danger.

If sources are to be believed cannabis is presently being grown in 10 districts of the state–Angul, Deogarh, Gajapati, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Nayagarh, Sambalpur, Boudh, Kandhamal and Cuttack. But the district that invariably attracts the maximum attention is Malkangiri for the simple reason that it also happens to be the state’s most formidable Maoist fortress. There is no denying the link between cannabis and the Red rebels. That should be an added incentive for the enforcement agencies to stamp out the menace of ganja from the state.

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)