KERALA

Ganja plants worth Rs. 1.33 cr. destroyed

PALAKKAD Dec. 4. Mannarkkad forest division officials have destroyed 6,687 ganja plants (Cannabis sativa), estimated to cost Rs. 1.33 crores, in two raids conducted in the Attappady forests.

In the raid at Chenthamala in the Pudur forest station limits of the Attappady range, ganja cultivation in nine plots covering 2.5 acres was destroyed. There were 1,343 three-month-old plants, which will fetch Rs 26.86 lakhs in the ganja market, in these plots.

At Mele Bhuthar Malavaram in the Attappady range, a two-acre plot with 2,654 five-month-old plants worth Rs. 50 lakhs was destroyed. Another plot of the same extent with over 2,000 plants worth Rs. 41 lakhs was also destroyed.

In the Bhoothar valley, a half-an-acre plot with 540 plants worth Rs. 10 lakhs was destroyed. In the Aralikonam area, Attappady forest range, a half-an-acre area with 100 plants worth Rs. 2 lakhs was destroyed. In these raids conducted in the last couple of days, ganja plants in 13 plots, covering an area of 7.5 acres, were destroyed in the Attappady range alone.

The conservator of forest, Olavakkode, Amarnath Shetty, said the five-month-old ganja destroyed in these raids were ready for harvest. December-January is the main season for ganja harvest. There is information on more ganja plantations in the Attappady forests and steps are taken to destroy them.

He said the ganja cultivators cleared forest land and cultivated the plant with irrigation facilities. They first raise nurseries there and replant the ganja. The main varieties cultivated are `Neelachadayam' and `Thapasi', which get good price in the ganja market.

The conservator said that during raids between July and November this year, the Forest Department had destroyed 75,585 plants worth Rs. 11.49 crores in the forest areas of Attappady, Palakkad, Walayar and Nilambur.

He said that of late there was ganja cultivation in tribal lands as well. The tribals used to lease out their land for banana and other crops. But ganja is cultivated along with banana. During the recent raids all such cultivations were destroyed.

The main problem they encounter during such operations is lack of funds and vehicles. It requires at least two days' stay inside the forest. Labourers are required to destroy the plants. But due to the treasury ban the department finds it difficult to encash even small amounts.

He said the newly created Rapid Action Force of the department was not used for ganja raids in the Attappady hills as it was positioned at Nilambur now. The Central and State narcotic cells, exclusively set up to check narcotic sale, have not shown any interest to stop the menace.

He said that the forest officials recently destroyed 2.5 acres of ganja plantation in the Parambikulam Wildlife Sanctuary. Similar plantations were destroyed in Nilambur forests and the Vazhikadavu ranges.

Mr. Shetty said the department had approached the Attappady Hill Area Development Society for financial assistance to conduct regular raids against ganja in the area.

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