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Satellite detects surge in opium farming in Indian state

Shimla, India: After analysing satellite data, Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) of India concluded that opium farming in Himachal Pradesh State has increased. At present, the state produces around 30 to 35 tonnes of opium annually.

Known for production of world’s best quality charas “Malana cream”, Himachal Pradesh is now also known for production of quality opium. The changeover from charas to opium began some two decades back, Times of India reported. Sainj valley of Kullu district and Bhara Bhangal area of Kangra district are the biggest cultivation areas.

Finding the environment suitable for growing opium, those into the illegal trade started cultivating it in Chohar valley of Mandi district and Sainj valley in late 1980s.

In Sainj valley, poppy plants are grown in “green houses” to produce opium. In Bhara Bhangal area, around 20 percent area is being used to grow poppy, sources said. Poppy is also grown in some parts of Kinnaur district.

O P Sharma, former superintendent of Narcotics Control Bureau, said that opium is being cultivated in around 15,000 bighas (1 bigha: approx. 12,400 square meters) of land in the state. Cultivation started in Chohar valley under political patronage which ultimately made the poor dependent on poppy cultivation, he said. “After the state police, NCB and customs department destroyed the fields, it had a ballooning effect with cultivation shifting to Ani Khanag and Sainj areas of Kullu district,” he said.

DGP Daljeet Singh claimed that increased vigil and sustained efforts to destroy poppy plants have helped reduce both production and cultivable area. “This year, we have destroyed poppy on 403 bighas. Last year, we had seized 36 kg of opium while this year, 10 kg opium has been seized,” he said.

Source: Times of India