VISAKHAPATNAM: Despite the Prohibition and Excise (P&E) department action plans, ganja cultivation did thrive in Visakhapatnam Agency area and in particular at the Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB) areas. However, the officials have now made up their mind to stop the illegal cultivation and trade of ganja and they are taking help of technology to do this. Recently, the district excise officials have destroyed 40,000 ganja plants over 9.5 acres near Paderu.
For record, some days ago the HRD minister Ganta Srinivasa Rao had directed the district officials to use modern technologies, such as RTGS-linked drones to locate the ganja fields and stop the ganja cultivation and trade in the district Agency areas once and for all.
According to the district P&E officials, with the support of the Forest, Revenue and Police departments, district P&E department has set up a Special Task Force (STF) with around 100 members in it to identify and completely stop the ganja trade and cultivation in the Agency areas.
The team members have already been deployed at various suspicious places in the Agency, for regular monitoring of the situation at the areas. Based on the efforts of STF and RTGS-drone generated data leads, the ganja plants were destroyed. “Very soon we will get some more advanced technology equipment, such as drones, modern binoculars. Besides, we also took up awareness drives in the Agency areas to create awareness against cultivation and smuggling of hemp among the tribal youth. This time, the government is serious about the operation,” said a department official.
As per the official information, the hemp cultivation has become a money spinner in some interior areas of the Agency and border areas of Odisha and East Godavari as these areas are a bit beyond law enforcing authorities’ direct monitoring.
As per an aerial survey of the P&E department, around 10,000 acres of land in the cut-off area and the AOB and around 5,000 acres in other Agency areas, are under ganja cultivation. In the first phase they identified four mandals out of total suspected 11 Agency mandals - Paderu, Hukumpeta, G Maduguala and Dumbriguda for the raids.
As almost all these areas are in the control of the dreaded Maoists, Police and other government departments think twice before entering these fields, which has became another advantage for the smugglers. Hence, the P&E officials are using the advanced RTGS and drone technologies. Each drone has a radius of 3.5 km to 4.5 km and eight drones are engaged in the operation. The smugglers in turn are engaging innocent tribals in the ganja cultivation to evade direct police action.
“Our Special Task Force team members are very enthusiastic youth with adequate experience in identifying the ganja trade and cultivation through the drone-made aerial surveys. After linking with the RTGS, identifying and conducting raids have become easy for us. Very soon, we will take up the next phase of combing operation to detect the locations of hemp cultivation and persons involved in the illegal trade. The STF will conduct the final phase raids for a month with the help of drones and RTGS technology. We are confident that this operation will yield expected results,” T Srinivasa Rao, the deputy commissioner of P&E department, Visakhapatnam, told TNIE.
With the support of drone and technical cooperation of Real Time Governance Society (RTGS) P&E department officials are identifying and raiding ganja cultivation fields and destroying the crops
Visakhapatnam district P&E officials conducted raids on two locations - one near Paderu at a 9.5 acres ganja field and destroyed around 40,000 plants and another at a 14.5 acres field near Pedaraayi village in Vanjira Panchayat of G Maduguala Mandal and destroyed around 75,000 ganja plants
8 drones are engaged in the operation and each drone has a radius of 3.5 km to 4.5 km