| The report in The Telegraph dated April 23, 2011 |
Bhubaneswar, April 23: With illegal ganja (cannabis) cultivation assuming alarming proportions in the state, not only the excise department but also the state police have stepped up efforts to check the menace.
According to the state crime branch, the police have destroyed ganja plants in an area of 2035.6 acres during the current crop year (2010-11) in eight districts — Sambalpur, Angul, Malkangiri, Deogarh, Boudh, Rayagada, Kandhmal and Gajpati. This is almost double the area on which ganja plantations had been set afire by the police last year.
The Telegraph had on Saturday carried a report on widespread ganja cultivation in the state. The report had mentioned destruction of ganja plants worth more than Rs 249 crores in 2009-10.
The destruction of plantations located in interior and inaccessible areas of the eight districts followed a special drive by the police to meet the threat being posed by the cultivators who wanted to make easy money at the cost of the state exchequer and the health of the people.
Crime branch figures, which were released by the police today, showed that while cannabis plantations on 1,132 acres of government and forest land were destroyed in 2009-10, the men in khaki torched illegally grown plants on 802 and 741.4 acres in 2007-08 and 2008-09 respectively.
“The destruction of cannabis crop during the current crop year is much higher than in previous years,” said the official apparently pleased with the results of the special drive against ganja in 2010-11.
The stepped up police drive against the intoxicant has been specially effective in districts such as, Sambalpur, Angul, Deogarh and Boudh. In these areas located in western Orissa, the Maoists have managed to establish a strong base. While in Sambalpur the area in which ganja plants were destroyed increased from 355 acres in 2009-10 to 850.1 acres 2010-11, it went up from 281 acres to 550.5 acres in Angul during the same period.
In Deogarh , where the police in 2009-10 had torched plantations on 154 acres, the area destroyed during the current crop year increased to 260 acres. Similarly, in Boudh it went up from 201 acres last year to 215 acres in 2010-11. While in Malkangiri, a known Maoist bastion, 38 acres of ganja plantations were wiped out by the police this year, 30 acres were destroyed in Rayagada, another rebel stronghold.
The excise department in 2009-10 had destroyed ganja plantations worth over Rs 249 crores in nine districts. While Sambalpur had accounted for destruction of plants valued at Rs 105.52 crore, plants worth Rs 45.2 crore and Rs 36.06 crore were torched in Malkangiri and Deogarh respectively.
Sources said the drive against ganja was being hampered by manpower shortage in the police and the excise departments. As most of the plantations were located in hilly and inaccessible areas, conducting raids was not an easy job.