SAMBALPUR: After a multi-disciplinary approach was chalked out by the State Government last year to contain hemp cultivation, the Excise Department here destroyed a record number of hemp plants in the district during the last fiscal year.
Reports said the Excise, Police, Forest and Revenue departments jointly destroyed 15,58,025 matured hemp plants cultivated in 710 acres of land in at least 25 villages of Rairakhol sub-division in the district during 2013-2014 fiscal. Each destroyed plant has been valued at `1000.
This apart, 20.70 quintals of ganja were seized during the last fiscal with arrest of 32 persons for their involvement in hemp cultivation and trading.
Similarly in 2012-2013 fiscal, a total of 7,63,430 matured hemp plants cultivated in 279 acres in 20 villages had been destroyed in the district. Besides, 12.45 quintals of ganja were seized and 30 persons arrested.
Though a record number of hemp plants was destroyed during the last fiscal, the menace is bigger than it appears.
When large scale hemp cultivation first came to light in the district, it was learnt that Maoists were promoting it to fund their activities. Their presence in the interior pockets of the district, particularly the areas bordering Rairakhol and Deogarh and Angul districts, saw Government employees stay away from the place and hemp cultivation flourished.
Maoists were getting a cut from the cultivation and also helped in smuggling of the contraband to Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh using forest roads. While the Maoists have been driven away from the district, people have failed to dissociate themselves from hemp cultivation.
Such has been the trend that more and more people are leaving paddy and other traditional crop for hemp. With vagaries of nature striking regularly and Government welfare measures not trickling down, farmers are drifting towards hemp cultivation which promises them handsome return with the same labour.
Vast tracts of forest and revenue land were cleared and hemp cultivated over it. The cultivation is done scientifically, complete with irrigation and use of fertiliser.
Excise Superintendent, Sambalpur, Dilip Kumar Pradhan said the drive to destroy hemp plants would continue after the rainy season and stringent action would be taken anyone involved in the illegal practice.