May 2017 News

Poppy Cultivation Flourishes Under Shadow Of Unrest In S Kashmir

22 May 2017
The Daily Excelsior
Suhail Bhat

Pulwama: In South Kashmir, vast fields filled with blooming red and white poppy flowers is a common sight these days as unscrupulous persons are taking advantage of the police's reluctance to move in the interiors of the southern district, owing to growing hostilities between militants and security forces. Every year in the month of April and May, police used to accompany the State Excise Department to all the poppy destruction drives that they carry across the Valley but due to spike in the militancy and growing resentment among the locals, police have stayed away from destruction drives. SP Pulwama, Mohammad Aslam, told Excelsior that due to an uptick in the stone pelting incidents and increase in militancy related activities 'some elements' have been able to cultivate the poppy. 'Some elements are cashing out the prevailing situation by carrying the illegal activities like poppy cultivation but we have identified the areas where people have grown the crop and will soon launch a destruction drive,' he said. Asked why police have not provided security cover to the Excise Department this year, he said: 'Our men are busy in tackling stone pelting and other related activities. We will launch a drive against the illegal cultivation once normalcy is restored. We won't allow this trade to flourish in the Valley,' he said. If the figures of the Excise Department are to be believed, the poppy crop spread over 2733 Kanals of land was destroyed in the year 2016. Similarly from 2010 to 2015 the department destroyed 2603, 2864, 1915, 1628, 24.03 and 83 kanals of poppy cultivation respectively. Ghulam Mohamad, a farmer, said scores of farmers in his villages and other adjoining areas, off late, were growing poppy in their fields as the growing tensions in Kashmir overshadow such activities. 'Earlier the farmers used to grow crop only for the seed that are widely used as a garnishing for food but most of the farmers are doing it for extra money. The growing tensions' has really shifted the attention of the law enforcement agencies. People are taking advantage of it,' he said. He, however, blamed an alleged nexus between the intermediaries who transport the drug to the states like Punjab and Rajasthan, and tainted police officials for the rise in the poppy cultivation. 'The middle man work in connivance with the police and lure people with money. They encourage people to grow the crop and then sell it to the dealers at Punjab and Rajasthan. If the authorities are concerned about this, why don't they stop farmers at the time of sowing in December? One should nip the evil in the bud,' the farmers added. Mohammad Umar, a local, suggested that rather than conducting destruction drives after a crop is ripe, Government should aware people about its ill effects on the society. 'The role of police comes at the last. Why don't they educate people about it? Just look at agricultural fields around Pulwama and you will find blooming poppy flower. Not a single destruction drive has been conducted so far. I hope they are not deliberately turning a blind eye to all this,' he said. Director Excise, Khurshid Ahmad when contacted said they have employed their men and machinery for the destruction of the crop and locals were volunteering for the cause. 'We have already cleared 30 kanals of land at Anantnag and nearly 40 kanals at Pulwama. Presently, the destruction drive is underway over 50 kanals of land in South Kashmir,' he said. He said due to the security reasons their teams have to withdraw from so many areas otherwise, they would have destructed major portion of the Poppy crop. Asked about the security cover, he said: 'It's an open fact that there is resentment among the people regarding the security forces and their presence might prove counterproductive. We are doing our job and will eradicate the entire crop.'