In Koraput, police fight cash-rich ganja trade and creative peddlers

Varun said his core team works round-the-clock and uses a strong intelligence network to crack down on smugglers.
Ganja seized from an oil tanker | Express
Ganja seized from an oil tanker | Express

KORAPUT: 13,000 kilogram ganja and close to 500 vehicles seized in the last five years. Yet the green contraband flows in Koraput. A watchful police network notwithstanding, huge profit from the trade continues to drive hemp cultivation and its smuggling in the southern district.

Look at the numbers. As many as 433 cases under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act have been registered across the district since 2017. This year alone, about 197 cases were filed till August. During this period, Koraput Police has nabbed a whopping 1,030 peddlers. Still, locals come up with ingenious ways to smuggle the contraband out of the district. 

Hemp cultivation in their interior pockets of the districts was introduced by outsiders a decade back. Earlier, villagers used to grow the plant but over the years, locals have become fully involved in the entire supply chain - from growing the crop to smuggling it outside the State. 

Police sources said, people residing in remote areas of the district have developed links with smugglers from other states. Now smugglers provide advance investment to the villagers to grow the crop. Interestingly, villagers do not grow the crop on their land but on the ones owned by the State government. While most of the public land where hemp is cultivated belongs to Forest and Revenue departments, police ends up doing the clean-up act. 

Initially, smugglers used villagers as mules to carry the contrabands through specific points through forest and foot roads but after intervention of Border Security Force (BSF), the practice stopped. The smugglers began to use vehicular routes for smuggling.SP Gunthapali Varun says the police intelligence networking is working well as is evident from the seizure of 13 tonne ganja and 499 heavy and light vehicles from the district in the last five years. 

However, new ways are being devised to carry the ganja consignments. Smugglers transport the contraband using cattle fodder, water tanks, cotton, vegetables, banana, coconuts, etc as cover. Sometimes, they use vehicles without registration plates and also with fake ones. Local youths are engaged by smugglers as scouts to keep track on police movement. When they apprehend interception by the police, they abandon the vehicle and flee the spot, he says. 

Ganja from Koraput and Malkangiri districts are smuggled to states like West Bengal, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. 

Varun said his core team works round-the-clock and uses a strong intelligence network to crack down on smugglers. The smugglers are now transporting the contraband in secret chambers in ambulances, oil tankers and oxygen cylinder laden trucks but police is alert to foil any such plan, he said. 

On the other hand, Excise officials play a limited role. Excise superintendent Manoj Kumar Sethy said while police have seized more than 100 quintal of the contraband, his department’s seizure has not even touched one quintal till now. 

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