Namkum police on Thursday rounded up two villagers from Latardih, around 25km from Ranchi district headquarters, for allegedly cultivating opium at the behest of the Maoists.
Sources said the police picked up the duo —Moin Munda (45) and his son Fagu (18) — after a tip-off from the forest department which said opium was being cultivated on a one-and-a-half acre plot that had been divided into three plots. Latardih, a village of around 100 Munda families, otherwise is known for its fresh vegetables.
A villager later said a group of Special Auxiliary Police force members assisted the Namkum officers in making the breakthrough.
Speaking to The Telegraph later superintendent of police (rural) Asim Vikrant Minz confirmed the development and said the opium plantation had been destroyed.
“Two villagers were nabbed from the scene for cultivation of opium. A police team later destroyed the plantation. The clean-up work started around 6 in the morning and continued till noon,” Minz said.
He also maintained that the villagers had carefully chosen the location for opium cultivation as it was surrounded by hillocks and forests on all sides and did not have an easy approach road. “Hence, it was very difficult for anyone to know what was being cultivated on that plot,” the SP said.
Interestingly, this is not the first time that Latardih or its surrounding areas are in news due to opium cultivation. Sources said in February 12, 2011, a similar opium cultivation on a 10-acre plot had been destroyed by the police at Singa Sarai, around 5km from Latardih. An FIR had also been lodged in this regard.
A police officer said villagers were often coaxed to cultivate opium by Maoists who provided them with seeds and start-up money. The opium business, he claimed, was highly profitable for the rebels.
“Maoists offer as much as Rs 10,000 for every kilo of opium to the villagers. The rebels in turn sell them at around Rs 5lakh per kg in markets of Mumbai,” the officer said. He added that on an acre a villager could grow 10kg of opium, which required a paltry investment of only Rs 20,000. The opium plants are harvested in March /April.
“The villagers often get sucked into this trap as they cannot hope for such returns on growing and selling vegetables or paddy,” the officer said.