Ganja cultivation in Agency is going on unabated even as the police and the excise departments claim to have unravelled several rackets with the seizure of the contraband worth several crores of rupees.
In the past six months, the police seized ganja worth over Rs 6 crore and arrested over 60 persons. Several vehicles were also recovered in this connection.
The banned green drug is largely cultivated on the hills in GK Veedhi, Chintapalle, G Madugula, Pedabayalu mandals in the Visakhapatnam Agency area. Waking up to the serious threat posed by ganja trade, the police department has set up a separate wing to deal with ganja smuggling in the district.
In an exclusive interview to Express, superintendent of police G Srinivas said: “An inspector of police has been deployed to verify the past and present records of the accused in ganja cases. Though the police have succeeded in arresting ganja smuggling, the persons convicted in the cases, who come out after serving jail sentences, are committing the offense repeatedly. The ASP of Narsipatnam and the CI of Anakapalle are on the the job to contain ganja smuggling. They arrested many persons and recovered large quantities of ganja from them recently.”
The SP said there was a vigil on areas where ganja cultivation was high. Counter intelligence wing was also pressed into service at vulnerable places.
Srinivas said the issue was linked to unemployment problem in the Agency and revealed that a special action plan was chalked out to wean tribals away from ganja smuggling.
He said sometimes the arrested persons were misleading the police by giving wrong addresses in Tamil Nadu making it difficult for the police to produce them in courts during court hearings. The persons standing surety for grant of bails to the accused were foregoing their money for obvious reasons when the accused failed to turn up for court hearings.
By and large Visakhapatnam has emerged as a safe haven for ganja smugglers in the past few years. Huge quantities of ganja were seized by the police department in the last few years. However, that is only the tip of an iceberg, claim the same officials who point out that major consignments go undetected as ganja is cultivated in tribal areas where Maoists dictate the terms.
In Odisha, where there is no ban on ganja cultivation, it is grown on a large scale. The cultivation is also spilling onto the Andhra borders mostly in the Malkangiri dense forest.
According to the excise officials, Tamils who have settled in tribal areas in the name of business, are playing a vital role in smuggling ganja to Chennai.