VISAKHAPATNAM: While the thriving ganja business in the Agency areas has been causing concern among the Excise officials and police authorities, Maoist hand behind the large scale cultivation of ganja in pockets deep inside the forest has been alarming. The police and Excise authorities accept that Maoists are cajoling tribals to cultivate cannabis in pockets inaccessible to the police. But lack of coordination between the law enforcement agencies and operational limitations are posing hurdles in containing the menace. Though police have been successful in intercepting a few vehicles transporting the weed, they admit that the amount of drug confiscated constitutes only less than a quarter of the contraband being smuggled out.
According to police sources, Maoists are into large scale cultivation of ganja to finance their terror machinery. Police and Excise personnel are afraid to raid the ganja fields as the Maoists have planted land mines around the plantations. Only the Tribals and Maoists know how to enter the fields without disturbing the explosives. While, the police say that destroying ganja cultivation is not their priority as they have been engaged in the bigger challenge of combating Maoists, the Excise department, the principal investigating agency, is also not able to curb the menace. The Excise department is highly understaffed and under trained to raid Maoist dens in the forest and destroy the plantations. The police are more equipped to destroy them, pointed out an official.
The lackadaisical attitude of the police and Excise authorities have emboldened the Maoists to take up large scale cultivation of ganja in the Agency areas. The ganja cultivated in the hillocks is being smuggled to various parts of the country. The Visakhapatnam rural police have increased the vigil to curb transportation of ganja during in the past four years. Almost all rural police stations have registered at least three cases of ganja smuggling during the past three years.
A special task force has been formed under an inspector to conduct extensive vehicle checks and curb the smuggling of ganja. According to sources, there is an increasing demand for ganja among youth and Maoists are exploring this huge market to finance their terror activities. Ganja traders have their own channel to source and market the contraband and according to sources, the people who control the market are located in Tamil Nadu and Rayalaseema region. Chennai-based marketers have introduced ganja cigarettes for the convenience of customers and it is said that these cigarettes are very popular among the youth.
“They are culmtivating the weed everywhere. Encouraged by the Maoists and the smart returns, the Tribals have taken to ganja cultivation in a big way. In the border areas, it is the main source of income for the Maoists. It is a fact that the Excise officials have limitations in locating the plantations and destroying them. Setting fire to the plantations in the forest is not advisable since it will harm wildlife,” said a senior police officer, who is involved in the anti-Maoist offensive in the district.
Accepting their lapses, the excise officials said that it was impossible to destroy the ganja fields with the existing man power. “We do not have an intelligence network or other facilities to conduct a search in the dense forests. With the present strength it is not possible to enter the Maoist strong holds. However, our officials are able to check vehicles and seize huge stocks of ganja during transportation. The police are also saying it is better to curb the menace by conducting vehicle checks instead of raiding the fields,” a senior official of Excise department told Express.
“The Maoists are earning big revenue through ganja cultivation. They are growing ganja deep inside the forest with the help of the Tribals. As the police have bigger tasks, we are not able to contain the menace. However, we have been able to seize large quantity of ganja and arrest several people by conducting regular vehicle checks. We have also deployed a special task force to check ganja smuggling,” said Visakhapatnam SP (Rural) Koya Praveen.