Extremism and ganja a heady cocktail in Visakha Agency

The weed is being extensively grown in areas where Maoists hold sway

November 10, 2021 01:22 am | Updated 10:11 am IST - VISAKHAPATNAM

Striking at the root: Officials destroying ganja plants at G.Madugula in Visakhapatnam in October. HANDOUT_E_MAIL

Striking at the root: Officials destroying ganja plants at G.Madugula in Visakhapatnam in October. HANDOUT_E_MAIL

Over the last few decades, the city of Visakhapatnam has earned many a sobriquet such as ‘City of Destiny, ‘Port City’ and ‘Steel City’. It is known for its salubrious climate and tranquil beaches, peaceful social fabric, Central public sector units, educational institutions and cosmopolitan culture. But of late, the city and the district have gained the notoriety of being called the ‘ganja hub’ of the country. The cultivation and smuggling of the weed has even outrun the reputation of Chamba valley of Himachal Pradesh.

In the district, about nine out of the 11 mandals that fall under the thickly forested area of the Eastern Ghats, which is known as the Agency area, are into ganja cultivation. The traditional crops such as turmeric, ginger, rajma and millets have given way to this weed, the seed of which was first sown by smugglers from Kerala and Tamil Nadu about four decades back.

Today, as per a conservative estimate by the Excise Department, it is grown in an extent of 7,000 to 10,000 acres spread over 150 to 200 villages in the nine mandals.

As per S.V.V.N. Babji Rao, Deputy Commissioner, Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB), the crop is being grown extensively in GK Veedhi, Munchingput, Pedabayalu, Chintapalli and G. Madugula mandals, where the banned CPI (Maoist) hold sway.

It is estimated that one acre yields about 1 tonne of ganja per year, which could mean an average total yield of 7,000-10,000 tonnes per annum, and its value running into hundreds of crores of rupees.

Not new

“Ganja trade or cultivation is not new in the Visakha Agency. The first case for ganja smuggling was booked about 45 years ago in 1973, even before the NDPS Act of 1985 had come into force,” said DIG (Visakhapatnam Range) L.K.V. Ranga Rao.

It has come into focus of late, as the enforcement agencies have started to take it seriously after reports from other States have started to pour in citing confession of smugglers caught in raids, that they had procured the stuff from Visakhapatnam.

The weed that is grown here is known as ‘Sheelavat’ and it has a booming market pan India.

Though it is procured by middlemen from farmers at about ₹2,000 per kg, it has a market value ranging from ₹7,000 to ₹15,000 in the upcountry market, according to a senior police officer.

The pan India presence is established by the fact that out of about 5,000 accused arrested in the last two years, over 50% are from other States, said Superintendent of Police, Visakhapatnam, B. Krishna Rao.

Well-oiled machinery

The smuggling network was developed over the years by the middlemen from Tamil Nadu and Kerala, who made the initial forays and now it is a well-oiled machinery, which includes the local people.

The fact that none of the enforcement agencies such as the police, SEB, Excise or the DRI have been able to make inroads and catch the kingpins suggests that they operate strictly on the ‘need to know basis’ akin to the mafia style.

They have devised at least 30 routes that lead from AOB (Andhra Odisha Border) region, where the weed is grown unhindered under the patronage of Maoists.

There is a flourishing industry in East Godavari that specialises in creating hidden chambers in vehicles, where the ganja can be concealed. Following the stepped-up vigil, there is a shift towards preparing Hashish oil or Hash, as small quantities can be easily smuggled.

Maoist link

Though Maoists deny any links with the ganja trade, the fact that it is grown right in their hotbed, waters down their claim.

“They are mixing extremism and narcotics with dexterity and it has been established that they (Maoist) have a cut in the trade,” said DGP Gautam Sawang.

Though the trade has been flourishing in the last few decades, the tribal people of interior parts where the crop is grown continue to live in penury and like bonded labourers on their own land. The land is leased to middlemen and they only get rentals.

This could be a ploy of the Maoist as they do not want the tribals to grow affluent since it would hit their mass base, said a senior police officer engaged in anti-Maoist operation.

“It is the middlemen and a few tribal groups who are educated, intelligent and live in the road front villages, who have made the best of the trade,” he said.


To curb the trade, the State Government has launched a programme called ‘Parivartana’ which involves not only destroying the crop but also creating awareness on the ill effects of indulging in it, the provisions of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act) and also educating the growers on alternative crops.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.