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Opium field set on fire

Jalpaiguri, Feb. 19: Police and the state excise department set on fire opium plants worth around Rs 2 crore near Jalpaiguri town today.

According to excise officials, some residents had cultivated opium on a char or a dry bed of the Teesta and were planning to sell the produce, a contraband item.

A joint team that had Pinaki Das, the superintendent of excise, and inspector-in-charge of Kotwali police station Achinta Gupta, headed for Mondolghat today after a tip-off. They chopped the opium plants, stacked them and then set them on fire.

Local people who gathered to see the police and excise officials chopping and destroying the opium at Tantipara in Mondolghat, said the “char” on the Teesta is around 1.5km from the local market. “It is a deserted location and people hardly go there. The rich silt deposits on the bed of the Teesta were ideal to plant opium,” said a villager. Mondalghat.

The excise superintendent said they had undertaken similar drives in Rangalibazna in the Birpara-Madarihat block and in Premganj of Malbazar block of Jalpaiguri district. “The opium destroyed today was worth around Rs 2 crore in the international grey market,” Das said.

According to excise sources, the opium cultivated in these areas are collected and smuggled to Nepal, whose border is around 100km from Jalpaiguri.

“A group of outsiders, in connivance with a section of residents, are involved in the illegal cultivation of opium. We are conducting raids to arrest them,” a police officer said.