After trudging the high mountains in a 17-hour-long operation amid heavy rain with the mercury dipping close to the freezing point, Himachal Pradesh Police seized over 15 lakh fully grown poppy plants, valued at Rs 10 crore, illegally spread over a vast stretch in the interiors of Mandi district, the police said on Friday.
A field intelligence report about the cultivation of poppy (opium) plants in Chauhar Valley in Mandi district had revealed that a huge area comprising government and private lands was being used to cultivate opium.
Following this, a special team headed by the Padhar police station was deployed to verify the information. After the verification, a special operation was planned on May 12, an official statement said.
When the police teams reached Garh village under Tikken sub-tehsil in Padhar, they first found a patch of land covered by poppy plants. On further onward movement, they were surprised to see three hilltops looking like carpets of white flowers.
On closer examination, they found that all the hilltops had poppy plants in full bloom.
Heavy rains and hailstorms then impeded further movement of the teams, but after waiting for some time and realising that it is of no use to wait for the rains to stop, especially when the news of their presence in the area has spread, they marched ahead, said the police.
The teams climbed the three hills one by one and had to trek for almost three hours to reach the first hilltop.
As the news of the police raid spread fast in the neighbouring areas, few locals themselves started to uproot the poppy plants at one of the spots, but timely action of the police foiled all such attempts.
In total, around 66 ‘bighas’ of government and private lands were found to be under the illegal cultivation of poppy plants with the assistance of the local patwari and the pradhan.
During the raid, approximately 15 lakh plants of illegally cultivated opium were found and samples were seized from each spot.
The process of destruction of the remaining plants has been completed. The entire operation ended on May 13.
Four cases have been registered under Section 18 of the NDPS Act and further investigation is underway.
As per estimates, around 5-6 kg of opium is produced in one ‘bigha’ of land which is sold for approximately Rs 300,00 per kg.
Accordingly, around 330 kg of opium could have been produced in this area with a market price of Rs 10 crore, said the statement.
The police said that cannabis and opium are grown illegally in vast tracts of Kullu, Mandi, Shimla and Chamba districts, causing a serious problem of drug cultivation, trafficking and addiction.
Over 60 per cent of poppy and cannabis produced in the state is smuggled to countries like Israel, Italy, The Netherlands and some other European nations. The remaining stock finds its way to Nepal or to other Indian states like Goa, Punjab and Delhi.