There has been an increased demand for drugs in the lockdown and dealers are taking risks to deliver them not only around the county but also across borders. With several other industries going through a pause, people who were otherwise employed in different professions—from food delivery agents to teachers—have had no choice but to sell drugs to make ends meet. But with the increasing demand has also been a huge number of busts that have taken place through 2020.
Now, on October 14, the Odisha police claimed that they seized more than 1,000 quintals (or 100,000 kilos) of weed this year across this eastern Indian state. The Crime Branch of the Police, the special task force and the district police personnel have together seized 1,054 quintals of weed by September 30.
“The average annual seizure of ganja during the past 10 years has been 312 quintals,” said the Director general of Police, Abhay at a press conference in Cuttack. “If we take the average of the past five years, it would go up to 414 quintals. However, our law enforcement agencies have managed to confiscate 1,054 quintals of cannabis—2.5 times of average annual seizure of the last five years.”
Odisha is one of the leading producers of cannabis in the country, where clandestine cultivations in the remote forest are said to thrive. In late 2019, The Hindu reported that officially, more than 4 crore hemp plants, whose value was estimated at approximately Rs 4,000 crore, had been destroyed in the past five years. Earlier this year, actor Rhea Chakraborty’s leaked WhatsApp chat about Odisha’s weed might have led to the spotlight on the state which might have led to tighter enforcement. “Difficult terrain and inaccessibility make this area difficult for the law enforcement agencies to conduct destruction of illicit Ganja cultivation,” the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) said in a press release on the recent bust.
This isn't the first time Odisha Police has seized such a huge quantity of weed. In 2019, the State Police caught over 3,000 kgs of weed, busting a major drug racket that involved 34 people selling cannabis worth Rs 2 crore. And in 2018, around 525 quintals of weed were seized.
The DGP said the Koraput district had led in ganja seizure by confiscating 413 quintals this year followed by 240 quintals by Malkanagiri and 126 quintals by Gajapati district.
“Apart from the seizure of ganja, we have intensified financial investigation with a focus on unravelling conspiracy and detecting the brain behind the cultivation and evacuation of cannabis,” he said.
The DGP also mentioned that efforts are being taken to stop illegal cultivation as Odisha is a cannabis producing state. An action plan was also apparently finalised at a high level meeting.
A virtual meeting was held with the DGPs of the states of Odisha, West Bengal, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh and it was decided to designate a nodal officer by every state to improve their coordination in drug cases.
Abhay, who was earlier Director General of Narcotics Control Bureau and is the DGP of Odisha currently, said, “The system of mapping poppy cultivation through satellite imagery has already been stabilised. Since the NCB has been using the system for the past 10 years, accurate information is made available. A similar system has been developed for cannabis cultivation with the help of Indian Space Research Organisation. Within the next couple of years, we hope to have information on areas of its cultivation.”
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