The district administration has decided to use drones to crack down on poppy cultivation and narcotics trade.
According to excise department officials, Bankura is among five districts — Malda, Murshidabad, Nadia and Birbhum are the other four — which are notorious for illegal poppy cultivation.
Sources said poppy cultivation, which is illegal in Bengal, starts around November in Bankura as well as other parts of the state.
“Excise officers keep watch on poppy cultivation in the district and frequently conduct raids. But this time, we will use two drones to detect them,” said Uma Shankar S, the Bankura district magistrate.
For the time being, two drones — one each belonging to the police and the administration — will be used in the drive and later, more unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will be procured if required.
The DM held a meeting with representatives of rural bodies, block administrations, police and the excise department on the matter before the Durga Puja vacation. Shankar asked them to maintain vigil against poppy cultivation.
The DM has constituted a committee comprising officials of block and subdivisional administration, rural body representatives and police and excise officers. “With the help of drones, there will be drives once a week and the committee will have to submit its monthly report on poppy cultivation in the district to the DM,” said a district official.
According to district excise officers, poppy cultivation is rampant along the banks of the Damodar river covering Sonamukhi, Borjora, Mejia, Gangajalghati blocks as well as Khatra-Mukutmanipur area.
Poppy seeds are used mostly to produce opium, a prime ingredient to produce morphine, which is processed chemically to produce heroin and other drugs.
Local people alleged that a section of excise and police officers were hand-in-glove with the racketeers engaged in the illegal farming and narcotic traders. “Poppy cultivation in our area is very common in winter. The administration sometimes conducts raids but it is only an eyewash,” said a villager in Mejia.
The excise and police. however, denied the charge and said they jointly conducted raids whenever they got information on poppy cultivation.