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Drug Problem: 274 narcotic-related cases registered and 320 people arrested in three months in India

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Image used for representational purpose. Image source: wikimedia Commons
  • Substance abuse has increased highly in the North East of India
  • Himachal Pradesh, like neighbouring Punjab, is facing a deadly menace- drugs and narcotics
  • In three months, 274 narcotic-related cases were registered and 320 people were arrested, police records show

Shimla September 11, 2016: Himachal Pradesh, like neighbouring Punjab, is facing a deadly menace- drugs and narcotics. In just three months, 274 narcotic-related cases were registered and 320 people were arrested, police records show. The amount of intake has alarming proportions and has turned into a matter of concern not just for the state government but for the courts too.

The state high court is not only pulling up government functionaries on each and every day for apparent lapses in dealing with this growing threat but virtually rapped them on their knuckles about the steps they have to initiate to counter it.

Quoting a study by the Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital, a recent judgment by a bench headed by Justice Rajiv Sharma observed 40 per cent youth in the state are involved in drug abuse.

Agreeing, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said the government has adopted zero tolerance towards narcotics. “Our neighbouring state (Punjab) is badly affected by drugs and in our state too its menace is a serious challenge,” he told IANS.

“Whether it’s Malana (in Kullu Valley) or any remote area that is known for growing opium or cannabis, the government is currently destroying their cultivation,” he added.

Police officials told IANS that the inaccessible valleys and lofty mountains in the western Himalayas are areas for cultivation of cannabis and opium. They are the country’s biggest drug-producing areas with a considerable quantity finding its way to Europe.

An official said the lure of drugs and quick bucks also attracts foreigners to the largely unexplored areas of Himachal Pradesh where they have become part of unorganised drug cultivation. Some of them never return home — they simply disappear mysteriously. They eventually become wanderers and are a threat to children. Their impulsive and vulnerable behaviour cannot be tolerated.

Police records show that there are 50,000 acres in Kullu Valley alone where cannabis is cultivated.

Chief Secretary V.C. Pharka, who was monitoring the fortnight-long statewide campaign that ended on September 5, said cannabis crops on 19,157 bighas of government land and 6,040 bighas of private land and 76,093 poppy plants were destroyed. (One bigha is 0.4 hectare.)

  • cannabis_sativa01

Countering this, BJP legislator and former minister Ravinder Ravi told IANS that areas in the state bordering Punjab and Haryana have become drug hubs. The drug menace has assumed alarming proportions in pilgrim centres and tourist destinations too. These tourist places have become a prey to such kind of acts and it leads to the decrease in the standard of that state.

In the just-concluded assembly session, he said, a stationery shop in the vicinity of a senior secondary school in Thural, some 90 km from Dharamsala town, sold ink eraser fluid worth Rs 3 lakh in just one year.

“Thural is a small sub-tehsil. There are one or two small government offices. The sale of fluid bottles worth Rs 3 lakh in a year is a matter of concern,” he said.

The volume of this clandestine trade can be gauged from a government reply in the assembly that 133 kg of “charas” or cannabis, 10 kg opium, 223 grams heroin, 6.03 kg ganja and 0.004 gm of smack was seized in the state in three months from April 1.

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Officials say over 60 per cent of the poppy and cannabis produce in Himachal Pradesh is smuggled out to countries like Israel, Italy, Holland and some other European countries. The remaining finds its way to Nepal or Indian states like Goa, Punjab and Delhi.

Over 70 foreigners, mainly Britons, Israelis, Dutch, Germans, Japanese and Italians, have been arrested under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, in the past five years.

The Magic Valley in the upper reaches of Malana, some 50 km from Kullu town, is known for cultivating “Malana Cream”, the prized hashish, a purified resinous extract of cannabis.

Easy availability of Narcotics in McLeodganj and its surrounding areas in Kangra district and Karsol in Kullu district have turned the areas into an addicts’ haven, say the police.

Image used for representational purpose. Image source: wikimedia Commons
Image used for representational purpose. Image source: wikimedia Commons

The crime rate under the NDPS Act is 7.7 per cent in Himachal Pradesh, compared to 2.8 per cent in the country.

O.P. Sharma, a former superintendent of the NarcoticsControl Bureau, said “alternative farming is the only way of controlling poppy and cannabis cultivation”

Citing field surveys, he estimates over 2,500 villages dotted across inaccessible valleys and lofty mountains in Kullu, Chamba, Mandi, Shimla and Sirmaur districts are known for growing cannabis and poppy cultivation.

Referring to Malana, known for the prized hashish, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said the government would provide high-quality imported rootstock of apples to the locals so that they can opt for alternative and remunerative cultivation.

Cannabis is globally the most commonly used psychoactive substance under international control. In 2013, an estimated 181.8 million people aged 15-64 years used cannabis for nonmedical purposes globally.In other cannabis growing areas, he said the government would promote cultivation of exotic vegetables and flowers. (IANS)

  • Jagpreet Kaur Sandhu

    The drug usage growing like an epidemic! And can not be controlled just legally. Measures needed

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Sambhar Lake Becomes Death Bed for Large Number of Birds

The excessive salt in the water led to the poisoning, causing hypernectremia, which is water deprivation due to sodium intoxication

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Sambhar Lake
After witnessing drought for many years, this year the Sambhar Lake, however, brimmed with water due to heavy rains. The inflow made the water toxic due to the change in its alkalinity. Pixabay

A deadly game of survival is on in the Sambhar lake of Rajasthan for decades — salt versus birds. The result came a few days back: thousands of birds were seen floating dead in the lake and their carcasses scattered on the edge of the 12 km catchment area.

The dead birds seen floating in this largest inland salt lake in the country, include plovers, common coot, black winged stilt, northern shovelers, ruddy shelduck, and pied avocet among many other migratory birds.

Harsh Vardhan, a renowned environmentalist, told IANS that no forest department official has ever been appointed to look after the lake. The lake comes under the Hindustan Salt Limited, a public limited enterprise formed in the post independence era to manufacture salt. Its job is to manufacture salt. So who should look after the lake; this has never been decided, he said.

The lake has not been handed to the forest department, and the area, where birds come, is no one’s land. Sambhar lake may be a part of the Hindustan Salt Ltd, but the company has nothing to do with the birds, he says.

The chief wildlife warden Arindam Tomar has maintained silence over the issue.

Even, Principal secretary, forest and environment Shreya Guha has washed her hands off the issue. All that she did was to a give statement that the Jaipur and Nagaur District Collectors have been asked to remove the bodies. She added that 4,800 birds have been dead till date, which is disputed by experts like Harsh Vardhan, who say that counting is not easy in the vast area.

Chief minister Ashok Gehlot on Thursday held a meeting on the issue.

Sambhar Lake
A deadly game of survival is on in the Sambhar Lake of Rajasthan for decades — salt versus birds. Pixabay

Meanwhile, Harsh Vardhan questioned the presence of several private salt miners and entrepreneurs, who have set shops in and around the lake. “They dig tube wells which suck water from the land making it parched. The remaining water gets evaporated leaving crystal of salts which are packed and sold in gunny bags,” he said.

Lack of water and drought has haunted Sambhar lake for years. State government has been spending huge money to woo tourists through activities like mobiking, balloning, race, Bollywood shoots, etc. A resort on the rim of the lake showcases salt manufacturing for the tourists. Crores of Rupees have been spent on the upkeep of the narrow gauge train and watch stations, but birds and conversation issues were always overlooked.

As Sambhar lake went dry, concentration of salt deposits came up within it. The water from surrounding rivers, meant to flow into the lake, was diverted by the miners.

After witnessing drought for many years, this year the lake, however, brimmed with water due to heavy rains. The inflow made the water toxic due to the change in its alkalinity.

The excessive salt in the water led to the poisoning, causing hypernectremia, which is water deprivation due to sodium intoxication, Vardhan said.

It seems birds which came in high numbers due to high water quantity this season died due to hypernectermia after consuming their feed which is the planktons, the microrganisms found in water.

Sambhar Lake
The dead birds seen floating in this largest inland salt lake i.e Sambhar Lake in the country, include plovers, common coot, black winged stilt, northern shovelers, ruddy shelduck, and pied avocet among many other migratory birds. Wikimedia Commons

The only step that has ever been taken by any government in the state was in 1981 when it was decided to designate the site as wetland and was renamed as the Ramsar site.

According to an estimate, around 60,000 birds visited the lake in a year which has come down to less than 20,000.

Vardhan says that if the lake remains with the Hindustan Salt Limited, which has been a loss making unit since years or if it is handed over to the private operators, who do excessive mining of water, then the lake and the birds are sure to die.

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Experts like him want the lake to be handed over to the forest department which can develop it as a wetland. (IANS)