Ranchi: Illicit drug trade especially cultivation of opium is fast emerging as an easy source of revenue for Naxal groups from Jharkhand to Andhra Pradesh which is suspected to be used for purchasing of arms and ammunition by the Left wing extremists.
According to officials engaged in counter-Left wing terrorism, Naxal groups have entered into an understanding with drug cartels for cultivation of opium and the crop is handed over to them which is later converted into Heroin and smuggled outside the country.
The Narcotics Crime Bureau has provided vital information to central paramilitary formations in Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Jharkhand about the cultivation of opium in the dense forest areas following which some raids have been conducted.
"In the recent months we have raided and destroyed 100 acres of opium cultivation in the state. We can only inform the state police but cannot intervene in matters of arresting people involved in this kind of act," CRPF IG in Jharkhand, DK Pandey told a news agency today.
Acknowledging there were always some hiccups in curbing the new menace because of jurisdictional issues, the CRPF official, however, said that any illicit opium growth is destroyed and an FIR registered with the local police station for them to take action.
In the past one-and-a half months, many places in the state have been raided by CRPF jawans and officials to prevent illegal opium cultivation. These places are located in the remotest of areas where Naxals have an influence.
"Latehar, Kharsawan and two places in Chaibasa are areas where opium cultivation was destroyed last month. Opium production in Chaibasa alone which was done on 11 acres and two acres of land at two places was valued at crores of rupees," said Deputy Inspector General of CRPF (operations) Bhanu Pratap Singh.
Opium cultivation has become a new headache as "we cannot take any action against the villagers who are doing it. We only give the location to the Narcotics Control Bureau and the state police to take action. We are only liable to lodge an FIR with the local police," Singh said.
Pandey said such cultivation and production of opium is not possible without Naxal influences in such areas. "Forest areas are no man`s land and they exploit it to the hilt. Opium cultivation is an easy source of revenue generation to the Naxals and they influence innocent villagers to produce opium," he said.
Under the government of India`s Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act and Rules any person involved in production of illegal opium can be given punishment upto 20 years rigorous imprisonment and fine of up to Rs 2 lakhs for indulging in trafficking of these substances.
There is a provision of death sentence to those in case of repeat of the offence, forfeiture of property of smugglers and their relatives who indulge in this illegal trade.