Comprehensive action is the only way
Booze and drugs are emerging as a major problem across the country including Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and also the two Telugu states.
Booze and drugs are emerging as a major problem across the country including Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Goa, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and also the two Telugu states. As far as South is concerned, the tribal areas in Andhra Odisha border and villages in borders of Telangana and Maharashtra have emerged as the main areas where ganja is being cultivated in huge quantities.
While Kerala which is known as God's Own Country and has been the most popular holiday destination both for Indian tourists as well as international tourists, till a few years back was notorious for cultivation of ganja which was popularly known as Idukki Gold.
But in the last few years it has succeeded in shedding this image and now ganja cultivation is on the verge of extinction. Now only some people are growing it in their backyards on a very minor scale. Though consumption is still on and officials say that most of these drugs are coming from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
Not just Kerala, many states including Telangana say that the Andhra Pradesh and Odisha have become the main centres for drug cultivation and supply. If the government does not take hard decisions and firm measures, the drug menace engulfing the youth may go out of control. The colonies in the outskirts of Hyderabad and some clubs as well as pubs are becoming the main centres for consumption of liquor and drugs including Cannabis.
Youth particularly in the age group of 22 to 30 organise birthday parties or rave parties in different clubs in the outskirts where liquor and drugs particularly ganja is consumed.
One bright spot is that the Telangana Government has decided to bring all educational institutions under radar and see that the menace is controlled. But then mere decisions or few actions in the initial days by police and excise department alone will not help.
We have seen how some swift actions were taken in the past, how even some prominent film personalities from Tollywood like Puri Jagannadh, Charmee, Mumaith Khan, Ravi Teja etc had faced inquiry by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the Excise Department. We also seen how they were given a clean chit on the basis of forensic analysis even as the ED was questioning them. So far only some peddlers have been caught while the real people behind the supply chain have not been arrested.
A strong network of ganja supply has been established by some groups in the city who make the substance available to the youth at many places including the pubs which are opened in the posh colonies like Banjara Hills, Jubilee Hills and Hitech city, according to a senior official of the State Directorate of Enforcement in the State Excise and Prohibition department.
The menace of drugs including ganja can be controlled only when all States act in close coordination and share intelligence information and act jointly just as they function in the case of handling the Maoists. Andhra Pradesh needs to take lead in eradicating ganja cultivation since large-scale cultivation is on in the agency areas of north coastal districts is done including Visakhapatnam. There are reports that in Paderu area around 25,000 acres are under the cultivation of ganja
Even on Thursday, ganja was caught in a bus near Choutuppal and according to police, it was being transported from Vijayawada. Officials from Kerala said ganja it seems is being cultivated illegally in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. According to them there has been a bumper crop this year. This according to Kerala Government has been causing concern for the enforcement agencies.
They fear that the smuggling of contraband from Andhra could increase during the Christmas-New Year season. Seizures of ganja in bulk quantities are being reported from across the state, though interstate travel is yet to be fully open. According to a top excise official, the post-lockdown period is witnessing a surplus of ganja being smuggled to the state. Now, with borders opened, ganja is being smuggled in huge quantities to tap demand during December festivities.
In September, the East Godavari police arrested four persons and seized 3,350 kilograms of ganja worth 3.5 crore while the gang was transporting the substance from Odisha's Malkangiri forest to Uttar Pradesh via Chintoor agency an arrested four persons.
Ganja smugglers are using new methods to transport the contraband from Visakhapatnam agency to neighbouring States through East Godavari. Recently, police have seized liquid ganja from smugglers in Vizag and East Godavari. On October 7, the Kirlampudi police seized 122.7 kg ganja, which was concealed in boxes containing photo frames of gods. The driver of the auto was taken into custody and Rs 30,000 cash, a mobile phone and the vehicle were seized.
If you ask anyone in Paderu area what crops they are growing, they will blink and list out all crops like ginger, jackfruit, turmeric, paddy but will not talk about ganja. The police says that they are being encouraged by the Maoists to grow cannabis plants which are as tall as 10 feet or so.
Allangi is another area in Visakhapatnam where the cannabis cultivation has become a major challenge for the State administration. Other areas where this cultivation is on are Hukumpeta, G Madugula, Pedabhayalu, Munchangiputtu, Dumbriguda, Chinthapalli and GK Veedhi. 90 per cent of them are tribals.
If the state government does not act fast, Andhra can emerge as ganja capital. Similarly, Malkangiri district of Odisha is another danger spot for cannabis. About 10,000 acres spread in about 3000 villages has emerged as another danger spot. One acre of cannabis fetches Rs two lakh in Visakhapatnam district.
Andhra Pradesh has suddenly seen a spurt in political activity this week and both the ruling party and the main opposition are on a path of clashing with each other. We have seen vandalism, we are seeing how both sides have transgressed their limits in using abuses.
While no one should support the cuss words used by the spokesperson of TDP even if it was an outburst of anger, it was more shocking to see the Chief Minister not only referring to that word but also giving the meaning and the ministers even threatening to throw bomb on the car of TDP president Chandrababu Naidu if he visits Kuppam.
The opposition is now trying to turn this crisis into its advantage by converting the attacks on their party offices and cases against their leaders as a fight against ganja and are knocking at the doors of New Delhi to take action. What would be the Centre's reaction in regard to ganja menace is something which needs to be watched.
It is time all political parties including the ruling party YSRCP should focus attention on the controlling if not eradicating the menace of growth and supply of cannabis. It is not a big deal. All that it requires is a focussed effort and a strong determination to weed out the menace. But then again it should be done in close coordination with Odisha on one side, Karnataka and Maharashtra on the other side and with Telangana government.