That cannabis is smuggled out of India from Visakhapatnam has come as a rude shock to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs which, acting on the information, has asked the Andhra Pradesh Police take a look into the extent of the operations.
According to sources, cannabis also known as ganja and hemp, is grown in North Andhra and Kerala and is being shipped out to Sri Lanka through fishing boats. The contraband from there is finding its way to other countries. The Ministry also has inputs from the Sri Lankan government that Indian cannabis is landing in its country.
In fact, the Lankan Navy arrested as many as 140 smugglers, including 20 Indians, last year and seized huge quantity of weed from the vessels. According to information, a large number of smugglers are promoting the ganja cultivation in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, particularly in north coastal agency areas.
The smugglers are exporting hemp to various nations with Sri Lanka as a transit point. The investigation officials found that many fishing boats from various points in Tamil Nadu and Kerala coast were engaged in smuggling the hemp.
Initially, the investigation agencies expected the youth addicted to hemp from Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana are involved in the smuggling. However, with the leads of the Sri Lankan Navy, the officials found several new facts during their probe.
It was discovered that Seelavathi, a sought-after variety of the weed, was being cultivated in the agency areas of north coastal Andhra region.
Though raids were conducted and nabbed the green drug smugglers, the ganja smuggling still thrives in Andhra Pradesh.
As the issue assumed serious proportions, the state government decided to take stringent action against the hemp cultivators in the agency pockets. The government also decided to destroy the weed fields with the help of the satellite images. The issue was also discussed in the recently held conference of DGPs at Bhogapuram in Vizianagaram district.
As there is a huge demand for the hemp, the smugglers are promoting its cultivation on the Andhra-Odisha borders by offering good money to the tribals.
“Several tribals have turned ganja farmers in the agency areas. Tempted by the Big money, the tribals from both Odisha and AP have started cultivating the contraband in dense forests. To completely destroy the ganja fields, the help of Odisha police is needed,” said a senior police official.
The government should also announce sops and schemes for tribals who voluntarily destroy the ganja plantations, he suggested.
In 2014 and 2015, the Visakhapatnam police arrested 1,150 persons and seized over 50 tonne of ganja and a number of vehicles. However, no kingpin was arrested. The police finally found that there were five major gangs involved in the ganja cultivation. During their interrogation, the police failed to get the required information from the accused about the kingpins. The accused informed the police that they did not know the smugglers. The police zeroed in on one Murugan, a key person of one of the five gangs.
A Home department official confirmed that a huge quantity of Andhra-brand ganja was being exported to Sri Lanka. (Colombo Gazette)