Destruction of cannabis: Bijbehara residents contest excise department’s claim

ANANTNAG: Residents of Bijbehara have contested the claim of excise authorities that 90 percent of the cannabis cultivated in several villages of the area has been destroyed.
They said that the banned crop still covers a huge chunk of land in many villages.
“They (excise officials) came for a couple of days and destroyed the Bangh on those patches which were accessible to them. If you visit the village you can see vast fields full of the banned crop. More than 50 percent of the bangh still remains untouched,” a delegation of people told Kashmir Reader.
Last week the authorities had started a Bangh destruction drive in the area claiming that 80 to 90 of the crop was destroyed.
The crop has been grown on thousands of kanals of horticulture and agriculture land in Hayar, Krandigam, Naboog, Guri, Veeri, Taqibal , Gantalipora, Hugam, Taqi Masood Shah and Dupatyar villages.
Though the cannabis cultivators of the area had turned to legal farming three year ago after the then deputy commissioner Kifayat Rizvi and excise officer Ghulam Muhammad Bhat launched a major crackdown against them.
But the people have resumed the cultivation of the banned plant after easing of the restrictions by the authorities.
Locals said that in Taqia Maqsood Shah village, where 90 percent of the people are allegedly involved in the menace, not a single plant has been destroyed so far.
They said some notorious smugglers of the village have allegedly started collecting money from the people having grown the crop asking them that the money has to be paid to the concerned agencies meant for destruction of the crop.
“I visited Taqia Maqsood Shah a day before. I was shocked to know that some smugglers of the village were collection from all the cultivators of the village assuring them that the village will be spared,” said a resident of nearby village Waghama.
Concerned excise and taxation officer, Mohammad Saleem, who is heading the destruction squad, admitted that the crop was still standing on a vast expanse of land.
He said that shortage of man power was hampering the drive.
“Yes we have not yet touched some villages including Taqi Masood Shah. Even in the villages we have covered, the crop has not been completely destroyed. But the problem is that we have only one team consisting of just ten laborers carrying out the drive in the entire area. There should have been at least two teams for the job,” the officer said.
“We are busy with the drive in Krandigam village and in next few days we will be rushing to the village. If revenue authorities extend full cooperation I will not leave the area without uprooting every single plant of the crop,” the officer added.