High on hemp

Last Updated : 18 January 2010, 12:06 IST

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Malnad, once known as home to sandalwood, spices and arecanut is now turning into a haven for cultivation of ganja, as hemp is known locally.
Police raids on farms where ganja is cultivated has become a regular feature here. Farmers who cultivate ganja are booked but the kingpins of ganja trade and the agents through whom they operate are not touched.
The police raided a farm in Kalakoppa village near Shimoga where ganja was cultivated in October last year. A Sub Inspector and three constables were suspended following the incident for their failure to trace ganja being cultivated openly. Similar raids were carried out on farms on the fringes of forests in Shikaripur, Shimoga and Sagar taluks also.
Tip of the iceberg
Last year, police seized 35 quintals of ganja worth Rs 60 lakh and have booked 18 cases related to cultivation and transportation in Shimoga district. The ganja seized by the police is seen as only the tip of the iceberg, with huge quantities waiting to be harvested.

Clandestine cultivation of ganja in the deep forests and the middle of ginger and maize farms on the fringe of forests is in practice in Malnad from several years. However in recent times, the area of cultivation is expanding and the trend has reached alarming proportions, with ganja becoming the main crop for farmers here.

Looking for lucrative options
Agriculture as an occupation is by itself losing its sheen in Malnad as yield from areca plantations and paddy fields has come down drastically because of pest and disease.
At a time when farmers here were looking for alternative crops, ginger was introduced in the region in the early Nineties amidst concerns that the fertile land of Malnad would turn barren because of its cultivation. It was during this time that ganja gained entry into Malnad.
Landless agriculture labourers engaged in bagair hukum cultivation on the fringes of forests are used as hands for ganja cultivation.

The ganja crop is locally processed and packaged. The agents who visit these villages in the guise of petty traders and salesmen purchase ganja. Even students from nearby towns are used as conduits in the ganja trade.

Vegetation in the deep forests in Shikaripur, Sagar and Shimoga taluks have been cleared and ganja is cultivated for a year or two on these patches.  
Introducing a strict patrolling system in the forests and providing modern weapons to the Forest Department staff could help in putting an end to the menace.

What’s a good price to pay?
The ganja grown and processed here is procured at a cost of Rs 800 per quintal which is sold at a much higher price after powdering in metropolitan centres.
With such lucrative returns and zero investment, it comes as no surprise that farmers opt for such crops.
It is risky to frequent villages bordering Shikaripur and Sagar taluks as the movements of strangers is closely monitored by the agents of narcotics mafia.
A query on ganja cultivation or on bagair hukum farming will sure land you in trouble.

Published 18 January 2010, 12:06 IST

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