MALKANGIRI:Malkangiri district has emerged as a safe haven for ganja growers and smugglers in the past few years. The trade continues unabated though huge quantity of ganja has been seized by the excise and police departments in the last two years.
The trade flourishes in inaccessible terrains under Chitrakonda and Orkel police limits in the district.
During joint raids by excise and police officials, about 3.44 lakh ganja plants spread over 53 acres of forest and Government land across Chitrakonda and Orkel police limits have been destroyed in 2015-2016 against 1.68 lakh ganja plants spread over 18 acres of land in 2014-2015, said Excise Superintendent Siba Prasad Gantayat. “Each plant costs around Rs1,000 and this year we have destroyed ganja worth Rs31.48 crore,” he revealed.
The seizures are only tip of the iceberg, claim locals, pointing out that most of ganja cultivation takes place in tribal areas where Maoists dictate terms and the terrains are inaccessible.
It is learnt that the ganja smugglers from neighbouring States, particularly Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh, pump in the funds and provide modern equipment and latest techniques, luring the tribals as well as farmers to cultivate cannabis in vast tracts of fertile valleys.
On the other hand, contrary to the popular perception that ganja is grown only in inaccessible areas with plantations tucked away in hills and forests, officials now admit that it is also being grown in irrigated fertile land suited for paddy farming.
Ganja cultivation is usually taken up in fields in the midst of other crops, including chilli and maize. An official, on condition of anonymity, said though they were aware about ganja being cultivated in large tracts on Andhra Pradesh-Odisha border, inaccessible terrain and Maoist threat come in the way of Excise sleuths and police to check the menace.
According to sources, the illicit trade is pegged at around Rs15,000 crore per annum in the district with the crop being cultivated in nearly 25,000 acres in Chitrakonda, Balimela, Kalimela and Padmagiri. Gantayat said, “We will not give the Maoists any scope to regrow ganja after the raids. We have decided to destroy the plantations by conducting raids.”