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Killing marijuana fields of Bengal on Int’l Day against Drug Abuse

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‘Who will provide the high cost of fertilisers and pesticides needed to grow food crops like paddy or even cash crops like mustard and oil seeds?’ asked a visibly worried farmer Md Iqbal. Visible signs of poverty was etched on his face and toiling for years on his old hands. But off late he had found a new way of earning, and that too much higher than his crops would fetch. That of growing Ganja or marijuana. Finally, he and many farmers along three dozen villages of Nadia district along the Bangladesh border were caught. They like many others had taken to this lucrative cash crop that fetched them large profits with very little work. However, the authorities were quick enough to destroy the crops as soon as they got news. 

We often get news of huge haul of illegal drugs seized on the West Begal-Bangladesh border. Yet, there are reports that show blocks like Hanskhali, Karimganj, Nakashipara, Krishnaganj and Chapra had once upon a time a flourishing ganja cultivation. Recurrent failure to get remunerative price for paddy and jute crops forced the growers to change the cropping pattern, although not yet in a big way, to grow ganja in scattered plots. Just take one example. Just 100 marijuana plants generate a revenue of at least Rs 3.5 lakh. One ganja plant yields Rs 20,000 after its life of six months. Who can give up this offer? Then they are readily sold too. Agents of smugglers who have international connections visit and procure crops on the spot. The smugglers and their touts come mostly from Bangladesh. 

Another raw cannabis cultivation region is Coochbehar district. Encroached river-beds, backyards or even kitchen garden space are used to cultivate ganja. According to a ‘Narco-trafficking’ report, over 200 km stretch of NH 31 from Assam Bengal Border of Coochbehar District to Islampur of North Dinajpur. This Siliguri corridor is used by smugglers of Nepal and Bhutan. However, the district administrations have stepped in to encourage farmers to grow flowers and exotic fruits that fetch them high profits compared to the usual food and cash crops.

Lotus, marigold, sunflowers that are used for producing oil have a huge demand and so do exotic orchids in North Bengal that have a big market. Similarly, the villages surrounding Sunderbans that again have a border with Bangladesh are seen to be taking apiculture as a new farm option. Honey again can fetch large profits and so do mushroom cultivation. The problem lies in the socio-economic set up. Even in an age of 100 days of work, free seeds, waiver of farm loans, farmers still do not see the face of profit, thanks to changing weather pattern and global warming. So, they take to illegal drug plant cultivation to gain profits easily. The only mode to stop them is to give an alternative. The West Bengal government is doing that and has been successful to a large extent in curbing ganja cultivation that was rampant even a decade ago.