Besides performing its routine duties and also fighting terrorism, the Jammu and Kashmir Police has launched a massive drive to destroy poppy and cannabis cultivation, particularly in militancy-infected south Kashmir that has become an important module of the drug trade in the country.
Men of the police force with guns tied at their backs and sticks in their hands to destroy the cannabis plants can be seen busy at their job in the apple orchards. Many orchard owners in south Kashmir are using their vacant lands to cultivate the money-spinning cannabis plants.
Director General of J&K Police SP Vaid recently declared a war against the menace of drug smuggling and drug abuse in the state and ordered the destruction of cannabis fields as a major step in this direction.
The areas that have become the hotspot of cultivation of cannabis plants include Anantnag, Pulwama, Budgam, Shopian, Kulgam and Bandipura across the Kashmir valley. Its cultivation has been destroyed over an area of about 67 acres but a lot of work remains to be done.
The drive against cultivation of cannabis was launched in a big way in early 2016, but the work was suspended due to the widespread violence triggered by the killing of militant Burhan Wani. But even then, the police and the excise department destroyed cultivation over an area of about 342 acres.
The police resumed the drive in Khundroo village in the Achabal area of Anantnag where cannabis plants over an area of 2.5 acres were destroyed last week. The police drive against drug abuse and smuggling has been appreciated by the public in general.
The DGP has motivated his men against the menace as a result of which police stations across the state are almost every other day making seizures of hashish and other contraband, including poppy straw.
Although cultivation of cannabis is prohibited under Section 8 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, south Kashmir has reportedly outdone in the Mumbai market the charas that is produced in the Malana area of Himachal Pradesh.
About 400 kg of charas and hashish were seized while being smuggled outside the state last year and more than 1250 people arrested in this connection.
Drug trade in the state is also linked to narco-terrorism as Pakistan has been pumping drugs through the Salamabad and Chakan-da-Bagh trade centres on the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and Jammu divisions respectively. In one of the biggest drug smuggling attempts, 66 kg of heroin and brown sugar worth over Rs 300 crore were seized by the Baramulla police from a Pakistani truck that came from Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) to trade goods at Salamabad.
Several attempts to smuggle narcotics through these two trade facilitation points have been thwarted by the police as a result of which the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has put these centres on its radar. It is believed that the narcotics smuggled from these LoC points are used for strengthening the hands of terrorists.
The State Level Apex Committee (SLAC) for the Prevention of Drugs Trafficking and its cultivation in the state had in its meeting last year contemplated the use of satellite and drone imagery for the surveillance of areas where poppy is being grown. However, such decisions have remained just on paper.
The J&K Police has also taken upon itself the responsibility of opening drug de-addiction centres at the district level as functioning of the centres in the government medical colleges at Jammu and Srinagar was reportedly not up to the mark.