Andhra Pradesh: area of ganja cultivation shrunk from 14,000 to 800 acres in ASR district, say police

‘Waning Maoist influence, destruction of ganja crop and encouraging farmers to cultivate alternative crops are the main reasons for this’

December 25, 2022 01:18 am | Updated 01:18 am IST - PADERU

Police of ASR district and SEB officials destroying ganja crop in a remote mandal in the district.

Police of ASR district and SEB officials destroying ganja crop in a remote mandal in the district. | Photo Credit: SPECIAL ARRANGMENT

Till about a few months ago, the newly-carved out district of Alluri Sitarama Raju, which was earlier part of the Visakhapatnam district, was termed to be the ganja capital of the country. It was said that it was the largest ganja producing district probably after Chamba of Himachal Pradesh.

But as per the latest statistics given by the district police of ASR, post the ganja eradication programme of the State Government called ‘Parivarthana’, there is huge shrinkage in the total area of cultivation in the district.

As per a conservative estimate of 2021, the weed or ganja or marijuana or cannabis was being cultivated in about 13,000 to 14,000 acres of land, across the nine Maoist-affected mandals of the district. And as per the latest survey, the cultivated area has now dropped down to about 800 acres.

It was primarily grown in the mandals of GK Veedhi, Pedabayalu, Munchingput, G. Madugula and Chintapalli. And the districts, till about a year ago, were reeling under the influence of the banned CPI (Maoists).

But since last year, the district police under the guidelines of ‘Parivarthana’ programme had taken up a concerted effort for destruction of the crop.

“We have been sporadically destroying the crop since the last few years, but since last year, we took it up scientifically after a proper drone and geo-mapping survey. We identified the major cultivating areas and took up the destruction systematically,” said Superintendent of Police, ASR district, S. Sathish Kumar.

In the last year alone the police and the Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) jointly destroyed ganja in about 7,500 acres, which was around 60% of the cultivated crop.

Last year, the joint team of the police and the SEB were strongly opposed by the villagers. “We took up the destruction around the last week of October and continued till January- end. But the resistance was mainly due to the reason that we had not informed the villagers and growers,” said Mr. Sathish.

“But this year, we have taken care of it. The sowing season is from July to August and we have started the awareness campaign from January, about six months early. The entire 60% of the area, which was destroyed last year, had not grown the crop and the remaining have abstained from growing it due to fear and finding alternative crops such as ginger and turmeric, more sustainable,” said the SP.

As per DIG (Visakhapatnam Range) S. Hari Krishna, this year the approach was a tad different from the previous year. “For the first time we have involved the village sarpanches, ZPTCs, MPTCs, SHOs and the womenfolk, before taking up the destruction. That paved the way for smooth destruction and people coming forward for the alternative cropping pattern. Last year they had complained that we should have told them before, so that they would have opted for an alternative crop. This year, we did not give them that scope,” he said.

This year, the tribals who have abstained from ganja are growing rajma, turmeric and ginger.

But they demand that they be moved to coffee plantation. Coffee is a permanent and sustainable crop and each acre can generate a revenue of around ₹1.3 lakh per year. But it takes a minimum of 3 to 4 years for the crop to grow.

“Initially, silver oaks have to be planted, and once these trees grow, coffee and pepper can be sowed. To begin, we have been provided about 4 lakh saplings of Silver Oaks, which are currently being nurtured in a nursery and will be planted around April next year. Coffee can be grown across the entire Agency, as the climate and the soil is conducive and we are making a beginning to wean the tribals from ganja,” said Mr. Sathish.

Huge potential

If the crop was being grown in about 14,000 acres and the estimated average yield per acre is around 700 kg, then the amount of business in the cultivated area is close to ₹1,000 crore, with one kg being valued at around ₹1,000 at the farmers’ end. And when it reaches the metro cities, the business expands to over ₹10,000 to ₹15,000 crore.

According to the police, the ganja per kg which was priced at around ₹800 at the farmers’ place, has now gone up to ₹2,500 and in Vizag it has gone up from ₹2,300 to ₹20,000 and in cities such as Hyderabad and Bengaluru it has gone up from ₹10,000 to over ₹40,000, which indicates that the scarcity has begun, due to successful destruction of the crops and weaning the farmers away from taking it up, said Mr. Sathish.

One reason why the police and enforcing agency have been getting some success, is due to waning presence of the Maoists. Surrenders, arrests and encounters, have reduced their presence to almost negligible level, especially in the nine Agency mandals of erstwhile Visakhapatnam district.

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