Marijuana growers arrested

Guwahati, Oct. 28 : Police have found that marijuana, illegally grown in the char (riverine) areas of Assam, are being smuggled to Bangladesh through river routes.

The police said farmers in the char areas, who earlier used to grow vegetables, were being lured into cultivating marijuana by an “international” racket.

The number of farmers taking up marijuana cultivation is on the rise as it yields a handsome income and also the crop requires little attention.

The police have destroyed marijuana cultivation at 11 locations under the Chaygaon police station area in Kamrup district since yesterday and arrested three farmers. The approximate value of the destroyed cannabis will be Rs 25 lakh. A kilogram of marijuana sells for about Rs 5,000.

A police source said they conducted raids at Jorsimalu, Haspara and Mahabirpathar villages in the district and destroyed hemp plants cultivated illegally in the area last evening. The operation was still on. “We found illegal cultivation of ganja (marijuana), uprooted thousands of hemp plants and burnt them down in presence of an executive magistrate,” he said.

Cannabis cultivation is banned under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act. A case has been registered against the accused at Chaygaon police station under the act.

The source said efforts were on to arrest few other farmers, who managed to escape.

The police had earlier destroyed around 2,000kg of cannabis in the Chaygaon police station area of Kamrup district in January this year.

According to the source, a well-organised racket was smuggling marijuana to Bangladesh by concealing it under jute, garlic and vegetables in gunny bags by boats through the border.

There is a huge demand for cannabis in Bangladesh, where its abuse is said to be rampant.

The police suspect that illegal migrants from the neighbouring country were behind the cannabis cultivation as most of these char areas are inhabited by suspected illegal settlers.

The vast tracks of char land in the state are believed to be used for marijuana as well as poppy cultivation.

The source attributed this to slack vigilance, as most of the char areas were inaccessible and have thin police presence.

“We are trying our best to bust this racket and destroy the marijuana cultivation. The recent successes are result of our intensified efforts,” he said.

The source, however, admitted that it was not easy to arrest the drug lords as they mostly operate from Bangladesh through their agents here.

There have been reports about these drug trafficking rackets encouraging farmers to go for poppy cultivation in the state.

According to information available with the enforcement agencies, these cartels were providing money as well as poppy seeds to farmers for cultivation in char areas in Darrang and Barpeta.