BHUBANESWAR: On September 10, a jute bag carrying truck was intercepted on a highway near Samola in Rajasthan by a joint team of Special Task Force of Uttar Pradesh and Alwar Police. When the cops checked the bags, out came at least 2.5 tonne cannabis, roughly translating to about Rs 5 crore. Mastermind of the racket Rakesh Kumar Yadav and his two associates Pramod Singh and Akhilesh Sharma were arrested. Yadav, police said, is from Madhubani of Bihar while his two accomplices belong to Mathura.
Where did the hemp come from? Travelling a distance of over 2,000 km, spanning over five states, the contraband was sourced from Odisha, fast emerging the new cannabis hub for trade in north India. The traders had managed to smuggle the ganja out of Tumudibandh, a small town in Kandhamal district of the State, without catching the attention of the enforcement agencies. When the joint team of STF and Alwar Police checked the vehicle, they stumbled upon 17,000 empty jute bags. A deep search led to 98 bags containing the 2.5 tonne of cannabis.
“After receiving information that the consignment was being taken to Alwar district, we informed Rajasthan Police and took their help to intercept the vehicle bearing Madhya Pradesh registration number,” Uttar Pradesh Special Task Force SP, Hemraj Meena told The New Indian Express.
When intercepted, the truck driver produced two e-way bills, one of which was meant to deliver the huge consignment from Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras and Alwar in Rajasthan. Both eventually turned out to be fake. Police seized the truck, one SUV, the e-way bills and other articles.Cannabis smugglers from Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Bihar have turned to Odisha where Maoist-affected and tribal districts have become their happy hunting ground.
In Odisha, districts like Malkangiri, Koraput, Rayagada and Kandhamal have been producing huge volumes of ganja prompting State Police and national agencies to up their ante. Tribals grow the plants for which they get an advance and an unofficial contract as well. When the harvest is ready, traders send in the mules.
Ganja is not just cheaply available, it is equally easy to smuggle which is why traders are paying a hefty fee to truck drivers moving them from the source to the destination. During interrogation, driver Rinku Singjh told the police that he gets at least Rs 1 lakh per trip.
It was Rinku who had procured the ganja in Odisha at a price which ranged between Rs 2,500 and Rs 3,500 per kg. When the consignment reaches the destination, the price jumps multiple times. “They were planning to sell the ganja at Rs 15,000 to Rs 20,000 in Agra, Mathura and near bordering areas of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan,” said Meena.
The investigating officer of the case, Mahesh Sharma from Alwar Police said, Rakesh has been brought on remand and further probe is continuing. In the last two years, Odisha has reported a rise in cases under NDPS Act. According to National Crime Records Bureau, as many as 1,179 cases were reported under NDPS Act in 2020 as compared to 980 in 2019. On September 11, Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) of Bhubaneswar sub-zone had seized 520 kg ganja worth over Rs 36 lakh from a Faridabad-based smuggler.