THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: For years, talents have been leaving Kerala in search of greener pastures, fetching name and money. But not this unique talent drain, which has only brought the state into disrepute.
Several men from Idukki, who have experience in ganja cultivation, had left for Andhra Pradesh and Odisha after the anti-drug agencies tightened screws on them.
And 50 of them have landed in jails in those states for cultivating and smuggling ganja and its extract — hashish oil.
The hilly district was once a hub of ganja cultivation and the produce from there was known as Idukki Gold among users. However, the good spell did not last long as the police and Excise officers, through their persistent efforts, removed the plant notable for its psychotropic effect from the hills. Highly-placed sources in the Excise Department said some of the men from Idukki have managed to buy land in the hinterlands of Andhra and Odisha and start their own ganja plantations.
They also clandestinely brought together people who had been into ganja cultivation in the past and secretly recruited them as ‘farm hands’ to look after ganja plantations.
Excise sources said Idukki men are rated high by the ganja growers owing to their experience in the field.
“The recruitment of farm hands is done at a personal level. Those who have prior knowledge in growing ganja are offered good money to move to other south Indian states where the organised ganja planters strongly resist their respective government’s anti-drug operations,” a source said.
“The workers are kept inside the plantations and allowed to return after harvest. It’s during raids that are few and far between that the Keralites were nabbed by the anti-narcotic agencies of those states. Some of them were also arrested while trying to smuggle ganja during their return journey to make extra cash,” the source added.
Of late, the ganja smugglers from the state are trying to bring in hashish oil, which can give them good return if it is safely taken to the destination.
Excise Circle Inspector T Anikumar said the men from Rajahhadm Adimali, Nedunkandom and Kattappana were mostly recruited as farm hands. He has been having a busy season so far as in the last 12 months as he seized 55 kg of hashish oil from carriers.
“When the agencies here clamped down on ganja cultivation in Idukki, a section of those who were into the business migrated to other states. The Idukki men are there as planters, farm hands and carriers. Of the 24 men we arrested last year, more than half were from the district,” he said.
On Friday, a team led by Anikumar intercepted a vehicle at Venpalavattom near here and recovered 11.5 kg hashish oil and 2.5 kg ganja hidden in secret chambers. Three Ernakulam natives travelling in the car were also nabbed. During the probe, as the sleuths expected, the trio spilled beans on two Idukki men, who have been growing ganja in Darakonda in Vizag district.