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regular-article-logo Friday, 14 June 2024

Odisha bans consumption of ganja in Shiva temples, move to curb health hazards

Ganja or cannabis is one of the most easily available drugs in the state with the Shiva temples witnessing congregations of smokers

Subhashish Mohanty Bhubaneswar Published 24.05.23, 04:32 AM
The use of ganja is a century-old practice in Shiva temples.

The use of ganja is a century-old practice in Shiva temples. Representational picture

The Odisha government has decided to strictly prohibit the smoking of ganja at Shiva temples across the state.

Ganja or cannabis is one of the most easily available drugs in the state with the Shiva temples witnessing congregations of smokers.

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Excise minister Ashwini Patra said: “Earlier, people opposed the practice of animal sacrifice in temples. After it was banned at the Bhagabati temple in Banpur of the Khordha district, the ban was imposed on almost all the shrines. Similarly, the use of ganja at Shiva temples will be banned. There is nothing wrong with it. We all should cooperate. The use of all sorts of narcotics in temples should be prohibited.”

Sharing more details about it, Odia language, literature and culture director Dilip Routrai told The Telegraph: “Under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985, carrying narcotics is banned. It has already been banned in the temples. After one of the organisations demanded a ban on ganja, we reiterated our commitment and asked the district collectors and superintendent of police to act on it. At the district level, the collector is the competent authority to look into the issue.”

Routrai said: “The NDPS Act prohibits a person to produce, manufacture, cultivate, possess, sell, purchase, transport, store or consume any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance. We already have that law and now we will implement it seriously.”

One preacher Balia Baba, the head of Ananta Balia Trust, on April 13 had written to the Odia language, literature and culture department to ban the use of ganja at temples. Based on the letter, the government has decided to strictly implement the law.

The use of ganja is a century-old practice in Shiva temples. But it has been found that miscreants benefit from it and make Shiva temples their safe hideouts. “Hundreds of devotees from across the state visit the Shiva shrines every day. However, excessive use of ganja in the name of Lord Shiva is polluting the religious spirit of the place,” Balia Baba said in his letter to the government. He added: “For religious practice, it can be used as dhupa (offering) at the shrine but should not be distributed among devotees for consumption. It will curb health hazards.”

However, many have objected to the ban on ganja. “It’s our belief and tradition to offer ganja to Lord Shiva. The government should not intervene in religious matters. Rather it should take steps to close down the liquor shops on the roadsides,” said 67-year-old Raghubir Mishra, a priest.

Family killed

Four members of a family were hacked to death by a relative over a property dispute in Bargarh district, police said on Tuesday, reports PTI. The incident took place in Jhikijhiki village in the Bhatli police station area on Monday night when accused Siba Bag barged into the house of his elder brother and killed his entire family with a crowbar, a police officer said.

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