Op-Ed: The State Must Win This War

By Ashutosh Mishra

Bhubaneswar: The menace of illegal ganja (cannabis) cultivation and smuggling is back in focus with the seizure of 170 quintals of the contraband in Koraput district two days ago. Police also arrested seven persons from Uttar Pradesh who were trying to smuggle the consignment out of Odisha.

The consignment had been procured from the neighbouring Malkangiri district which is considered to be the haven of ganja growers and smugglers. Incidently, both Koraput and Malkangiri happen to be Maoist bastions and the ultras are known to patronise the cultivation of cannabis which helps fund their subversive operations.

Before this 45 kilograms of ganja being routed from Boipariguda in Koraput to Raipur in neighbouring Chhatisgarh had been seized by the authorities. Last February there was another big ganja haul by Malkangiri police who impounded a truck carrying 8 quintals of the contrand and arrested two persons in this connection.

What is significant is that notwithstanding regular seizure of the contraband enforcement authorities in the state have been struggling to curb rampant ganja cultivation and trade. If sources are to be believed an ambitious plan had been drafted a few years ago to identify cannabis plantations in various parts of the state through satellite imagery so that they could be destroyed by the authorities. But the plan remains a non-starter.

One is given to understand that the agency which had been entrusted with the task of identifying cannabis plantations, often tucked away in deep forests and hills, has not been able to carry out the task in the absence of required intelligence inputs about the plantations from districts such as Angul, Deogarh, Boudh, Kandhamal, Rayagada, Gajapati and Malkangiri. Most of these districts are known for Maoist activities with ultras patronizing the trade to finance their operations against the state.

If sources are to be believed plantations in some areas have been destroyed by joint teams of police and excise departments acting without the aid of satellite imagery. But in some areas like Deogarh and Sambalpur the plantations have been hard to locate.

Going by statistics cannabis plantations spread over nearly 2,457 acres had been destroyed by the authorities by the end of September, 2016 against a target of 3,050 acres for the year 2015-16. Before that ganja grown over an area of 3,768 acres had been set on fire.

A major problem for the enforcement agencies conducting raids against cannabis plantations has been change in the cultivation pattern with growers moving to new areas that make it hard to collect information and plan coercive action. Hence, stress should be on strengthening the intelligence gathering mechanism, especially by revenue and forest officials if the state has to win the war against ganja.

Cannabis, according to available information, is being grown in 10 districts of the state, namely Angul, Deogarh, Gajapati, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Nayagarh, Sambalpur, Boudh, Kandhamal and Cuttack. Till a few years ago Angul used to be known as the cannabis capital of Odisha but sustained drive by the enforcement agencies has made growers move to newer areas like Boudh and Kandhamal and even parts of Nayagarh. This makes the challenge of curbing the ganja menace tougher.

(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.)