Illicit poppy cultivation in the border districts of West Bengal and smuggling of the contraband across the border to Bangladesh and elsewhere are worrying intelligence authorities because it has turned out to be among the the principal sources of funds for terror outfits like the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh.
CID sources told PTI that the strategic position of these districts facilitated rise in illegal cultivation of poppy, which “has become a major fund generating business drawing several hundreds of youths into it”.
Apart from Malda district’s Ratua, Kaliachak and Baishnabnagar, poppy is also allegedly secretly grown at Nowada and Beldanga in Murshidabad district besides Dubrajpur, Ilambazar and Kankartala in Birbhum district.
Such cultivation was also found in Patrasayar, Indas, Onda and Barjora in Bankura and Ketugram, Mangolkote, Kaksa, Purbasthali, Katwa, Galsi and Laodaha in Burdwan, the sources said. “Much evidence is there that the money earned from this cultivation goes to the terror groups through different channels including hawala. The money might have also gone to suspected ISIS agents through JMB,” the source said.
“A large number of locals, mainly youth, are involved in cultivating it mostly in areas which are not frequented by locals,” he said. The district administration with the assistance of the NCB, local police and the BSF had destroyed 4,000 acres of poppy crop last year, whereas around 1,000 acres have been destroyed this year so far, police sources said.
According to a Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) report compiled in 2011-2012, the agency had destroyed poppy crops cultivated in around 714 acres of land in the state, out of which 711 acres lay in the Malda district while the other three were in Hooghly and Burdwan districts.
“It must be mentioned that the illicit cultivation of poppy is spread over Malda’s Kaliachak and Baishnabnagar and these are the areas where the fake Indian currency notes (FICN) cartels are also tracked,” he said, adding that in the last couple of years several raids and arrests had been made in Kaliachak.
The CID source said that illegal poppy cultivation had spread to villages on the zero line where the Border Security Force had almost no reach. According to him, the link between FICN and poppy was helping the growth of terror networks in the state.
The youths involved in illegal poppy cultivation are also being used in drug-peddling, besides smuggling fake currency. According to the source, there is a close connection between the fake currency rackets and cultivators of illegal poppy in the state.
“On smuggling drugs across the border to Bangladesh one receives fake currency in return… It’s actually over the years that Malda has become a major transit of FICN,” he said citing a National Investigation Agency (NIA) 2012 report.
He said that earlier farmers in Malda were primarily into producing raw silk yarn and mango, but the easier process of cultivation and the prospect of earning huge money have lured them into cultivating the illegal crop.
“The white latex collected from the opium poppy is the main product for heroin production and the collection of latex is generally done by the children…. Heroin brings in more money for these people,” he said.