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Satellite images show mega rise in HP poppy cultivation
Pratibha Chuhan
Tribune News Service

Shimla, May 24
Satellite images passed on to the state police by the Narcotics Control Bureau have set alarm bells ringing. The images indicate a growing number of people in Himachal Pradesh, especially in Kullu valley, have succumbed to the temptation of cultivating poppy.

The images, said ADGP ( CID) I.D. Bhandari, also mark an increasing shift from the cultivation of cannabis to the cultivation of poppy. This is obviously because a kilo of hashish made from cannabis fetches Rs. 20,000 but a Kg of heroin, made from poppy, could fetch up to Rs one crore in the international market.

Bhandari admitted that the cultivation of poppy, despite the high risks involved, has become organised and is being done even in apple orchards. He also acknowledged that the cultivation is possibly done in connivance with local officials of the Revenue, Forest and the Police departments.

The images have identified 52 panchayts in the districts of Kullu, Mandi, Chamba and Shimla. The detailed report from the NCB pin pointing the exact areas in the higher reaches not connected by road have been sent to the respective SP’s of the four districts. “The satellite images indicate an increase in the area under cannabis and poppy for which we have to create social awareness and offer attractive alternative farming options,” said Bhandari. The matter has also been taken up at the highest level in the governemnt so that a changed strategy can be adopted.

The Ani, Banjar, Sainj, Seraj areas of Kullu district and Chuhar Valley in Mandi district have gained notoriety for illegal cultivation of cannabis and poppy which lures hordes of foreigners in search of narcotics to the valley of Gods.

But he was candid in confessing that with the cultivation taking place in remote and inaccessible parts, away from the roads, it was difficult for the police to detect or monitor such activities.

“During the last two months cannabis and poppy cultivation over 3,000 bighas in Kullu has been destroyed but such campaigns cannot be successful till people can be weaned from their illegal cultivation,” says Bhandari.

The failure of the revenue and forest officials in reporting the illegal cultivation on private as well as government land has compounded the problem for the police.

The police has now decided to register cases against such erring officials in case they fail to report such illegal cultivations to the police so that people are discouraged from being in this illegal trade.

With their limited staff and infrastructure the police officials admit they cannot tackle the problem without assistance from various agencies. The recent example of Malana village where an alternative farming project has been initiated will have to be replicated to wean away those engaged in the drug trade as the efforts made in this direction so far have not paid dividends.

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