Cannabis And Poppy Are Kashmir's New Cash Crops26 June 2011
Srinagar: Forget rice and wheat,poppy, bhang and charas are virtually the newest cash crops in the south Kashmir bowl. Lakhs of kanals (20 kanal form one hectare) of land is under the cultivation of bhang and charas in south and central Kashmir. More than 200 kanals of land is under the illegal cultivation of poppy in four districts of south Kashmir. Figures released by the J&K government have revealed shocking details about the drug trafficking in the trouble-torn state. In 2009 the law enforcement agencies seized, 168.775 kilograms of Charas, 01.390 kilograms of Opium and 10961.505 kilograms of Opium derivatives from the drug traffickers. Similarly, 51.974 kilograms of Charas, 02.414 kilograms Opium, 16577.550 kilograms of Opium derivatives, 68 kilograms of Bhang and 24 kilograms of Ganja were seized by April 2010. “We have almost completed destruction of the poppy crops this year. It is the bhang which is spread over lakhs of kanals in forests, cervices and other areas in the wild”, said Raja Aijaz Ali, Inspector General of Police (Crime branch) Jammu and Kashmir. People in some parts of south Kashmir have a long history of cultivation of cannabis and more recently the phenomenon of poppy cultivation has gained ground. The practice got multiplied with the onset of militancy since law enforcing agencies did not pay attention to this menace as they were busy battling terror. Police said cultivating this poison also gained currency because of the high demand of Charas and other drugs in Punjab and other states of the country. The money involved was high and the farmers were getting more returns from the cultivation of illegal crops than usual cash crops. Plus the illegal crops require less irrigation and the question of crop failure in case of bad monsoon is ruled out. Alarmed by the phenomenon the Jammu and Kashmir government is working on two tracks to get rid of the illegal crops: they want to convince farmers to switch over to alternative crops and second they are going all guns blazing to destroy the existing crops “We have asked the agriculture department to form a scheme of alternative crops that can be sown in place of illegal crops. Once government of India approves it we will go to the farmers and try to convince them to switch to these cash crops”, said Raja Aijaz Ali. During this year 21 cases were registered under NDPS in Awantipora police station with as many as 21 persons being arrested and five vehicles seized. Large stretches of cultivated Cannabis and poppy were destroyed with dedicated efforts. For greater deterrence 12 persons were detained under Public Safety Act (PSA) under which a person can be detained for two years without trial or bail. Moreover, the process for attaching the property of many big wigs of this murky business has been initiated.