The lynching of four men from Madhya Pradesh in Orissa’s Koraput district may have shaken cannabis traders, but it is unlikely to stop them.
The four men, who had gone to a village in Koraput on April 8 to get a consignment of cannabis, were lynched by villagers who mistook them for kidnappers.
But police officials said this would only be a temporary setback for cannabis traders from MP, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, who have been going to Koraput for more than a decade to buy cannabis, or ganja, usually priced between Rs 800-1,000 per kg. “Once ganja goes out of Orissa, it can be sold for Rs 5,000-10,000 a kg, depending on the quality,” said Govind Buruda, inspector at the Jeypore sadar police station.
While Maoist-dominated areas in Malkangiri remain the epicentre of cannabis cultivation, Boipariguda village in Koraput has emerged as a popular trading hub. Traders usually avoid going to Malkangiri because of the dangers involved. Apart from Malkangiri, cannabis is grown in Sambalpur, Angul, Boudh, Deogarh, Gajapati, Rayagada and Kandhamal districts.
With big money to be made, traders often get innovative, using ambulances or hidden chambers in trucks to conceal the drugs from police.
In November 2014, police in Jeypore received a tip-off about a vehicle carrying cannabis from Malkangiri to Koraput. When they found an ambulance without a number plate on the Malkangiri-Boipariguda road, they stopped it, but the driver managed to escape. “We found 40 kg of ganja inside,” said Tapan Rath, inspector at Jeypore town police station.
In January this year, Rath and his team stopped a truck that had a separate chamber underneath. “To an untrained eye, it would look normal. But when we saw the truck, its wooden base seemed a little out of place. When we drilled through the vehicle’s wooden base, we found 3.8 quintals of ganja,” said Rath.
In another incident in September last year, police found a truck with an extra fuel tank. When they dipped a stick inside, there was no diesel. “We found 316 kg of ganja,” said Buruda. Another truck seized in 2011 had a separate chamber over the driver’s cabin, containing 219 kg of ganja.
According to police records, in the past six months in Koraput, 13 cases of cannabis trading have been reported, with seizures to the tune of 27.58 quintals.
A detailed investigation by former Orissa DGP Amarananda Pattanayak and his team in 2003 had shown that cannabis was being cultivated at the behest of Maoists.
“Taking advantage of the geographical situation and inaccessibility, Maoists use tribals to cultivate ganja. The local tribals are engaged by the drug mafia to cultivate and then transport ganja through deep jungles to places from where middlemen and drug peddlers ferry the consignment elsewhere,” the report had said.