Krishnagar, Feb. 13: At least 500 schoolteachers in Nadia had cannabis growing in their backyards, apparently without their knowledge.
The administration discovered the flourish of the plants during a drive launched in January and has apparently destroyed over Rs 20 crore worth of ganja already.
A full-grown hemp plant fetches between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,000 in the illegal market.
Cannabis cultivation is banned under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. It could result in a life term if involvement in a cartel is proved. Growing ganja for personal consumption can lead to 7-10 years in jail.
The administration has so far carried out raids in Nakashipara, Kaligunj and Tehatta, about 150 km from Calcutta.
“During the raids, we stumbled across at least 500 primary school teachers on whose land cannabis was being grown. We were startled… we destroyed the plants but did not arrest them. The district primary school council has been informed,” said additional superintendent of police Subrata Mitra.
Most of the teachers, though, have pleaded innocence saying they had given their land to others to till and were unaware of what was being grown.
None of them wanted to be quoted, except Subir Mondal, who teaches in a Tehatta primary school. “I simply can’t believe that I have been charged with growing ganja. My land labourer did this. I am innocent,” he told The Telegraph
Jyotirmoy Biswas of Na- kashipara, who destroyed the cannabis plants on his plot before the police arrived on a raid, refused to comment.
Middlemen smuggle seeds from Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh and sell them to cultivators, the police said. The same middlemen buy back full-grown plants.
District primary school council chairman Bibhash Biswas has ordered an inquiry.
Biswas has spoken to some of the teachers. “They said farm workers had cultivated cannabis without telling them.”
A warning has been issued to the teachers. Biswas added that they “could be dismissed if the inquiry reveals that they were aware of what was being grown on their land”.
Additional superintendent Mitra said the teachers might be arrested during the probe, “if necessary”.
At least 30 people have been arrested during the raids, but none of them teachers.
A primary school teacher in Bengal earns about Rs 6,000 a month.
The police believe that most of the 500 teachers allowed the cannabis cultivation to make a killing.
The council called a meeting last week and asked every circle school inspector to convene a headmasters’ conclave to discuss the list of shame.