Until a few months ago, the newly developed suburb of Alluri Sitarama Raju, which was earlier part of Visakhapatnam district, was the ganja capital of the country. It was said to be the largest ganja producing district after Chamba in Himachal Pradesh.
But according to the latest statistics provided by the ASR district police, after the State Government’s ganja eradication program called ‘Parivarthana’, there is a huge reduction in the entire cultivation area of the district.
According to a conservative estimate of 2021, around 13,000 to 14,000 hectares of weed or ganja or marijuana or cannabis were being cultivated in nine Maoist-infested mandals in the district. And according to the latest survey, the planted area has now dropped to around 800 hectares.
It mainly grew in the mandals of GK Veedhi, Pedabayalu, Munchingput, G. Madugula and Chintapalli. And the districts, until a year ago, were reeling under the influence of the banned (Maoist) CPI.
But since last year, the district police under the guidelines of ‘Parivarthana’ program made a concerted effort to destroy the crop.
“Since last few years we have been destroying the crop from time to time but since last year we took it scientifically after a proper drone and geo-mapping. We identified the main crop areas and took up the destruction systematically,” said S. Sathish Kumar, District Superintendent of Police ASR.
In the last year alone, the police and the Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) together destroyed about 7,500 hectares of ganja, which is about 60% of the crop.
Last year, the citizens strongly opposed the joint team of the police and SEB. “We took the destruction in the last week of October and continued until the end of January. But the resistance was mainly because we did not inform the villagers and growers,” said Mr. Sathish.
“But this year, we took care of it. The sowing season is from July to August and we have started the awareness campaign since January, about six months earlier. The entire 60% of the area that was destroyed last year did not grow the crop and the rest do not grow because of fear and to find alternative crops like ginger and turmeric, which are more sustainable,” said the SP.
According to DIG (Visakhapatnam Range) S. Hari Krishna, the approach this year was a little different from the previous year. “We have participated for the first time with the village sarpanches, ZPTC, MPTC, SHO and women, before starting the destruction. This paved the way for soft destruction and people came out in favor of the alternative model of cutting. Last year they complained that we should have told them before, so that they could opt for alternative farming. This year, we didn’t give them that scope,” he said.
This year, tribals who have abstained from ganja are growing rajma, turmeric and ginger.
But they ask to be taken to the cafe. Coffee is a durable and perennial crop and each hectare can generate an income of around ₹ 1.3 lakh per year. But it takes at least 3 to 4 years to grow the crop.
“In the beginning, silver oaks must be planted, and when these trees grow, coffee and pepper can be sown. To begin with, we have been given around 4 lakh Silver Oak saplings, which are currently growing in a nursery and will be planted around April next year. Coffee can be grown throughout the Agency because the climate and soil are right and we are starting to wean tribals off ganja,” said Mr. Sathish.
If the crop was grown on 14,000 acres and the average yield per acre is around 700 kg, then the amount of business in the cultivated area is close to ₹1 billion, and a kg is around ₹1,000 to the farmers. ‘the end And when it comes to metro cities, the business expands to more than ₹10,000 to ₹15,000.
According to the police, ganja which was priced at around ₹800 per kg at farmers’ place has gone up to ₹2,500 and from ₹2,300 to ₹20,000 in Vizag and cities like Hyderabad and Bengaluru. It has gone from ₹ 10,000 to over ₹ 40,000, indicating the onset of scarcity due to successful destruction of crops and farmers leaving them unclaimed, Mr. Sathish said.
One reason the police and enforcement agencies are having some success is because of the diminishing presence of the Maoists. Surrenders, arrests and encounters have reduced their presence to almost negligible levels, especially in the nine Agency mandals of the erstwhile Visakhapatnam district.