Bhubaneswar: Police in Odisha’s Maoist-affected Malkangiri district arrested three persons on charges of smuggling cannabis worth Rs 1 crore in an oil tanker that was on its way to Sukma district in neighbouring Chhattisgarh on Thursday.
Malkangiri superintendent of police Jagmohan Meena said based on a tip, police searched the stationary tanker and found sacks of ganja inside. Police arrested the tanker driver Yasmin Bhagel of along with his two helpers, Sona Madhi and Raghu Kalkada of Malkangiri.
Considered as the epicentre of cannabis cultivation in Odisha, Malkangiri district is frequented by traders from Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, said a source aware of the clandestine trade. Cannabis cultivation flourishes most in the Maoist bastion in Kudumulgumma block of the district, the source added. For over a decade, traders from other states have been visiting Malkangiri every year to buy cannabis at rates between Rs 800 and Rs 1,000 a kg, said the source.
In 2010, the Uttar Pradesh special task force seized 3,000 kg of cannabis worth around Rs 10 crore from a truck in Lucknow. The truck had reached UP from Balimela area of Malkangiri district.
Police officials said cannabis traders have always used ingenious ways of carrying the narcotics. In November 2014, police officials of Jeypore found 40 kg of cannabis in an unnumbered ambulance on the Malkangiri-Boipariguda route.
In January 2015, Koraput police seized a truck that had 380 kg of cannnabis hidden in a separate chamber under its wooden body. A cannabis haul was once made from an extra fuel tank of a car. An investigation by former Odisha police chief Amarananda Pattanayak and his team in 2003 stated cannabis was being cultivated at the behest of Maoists.
“Taking advantage of the geographical situation and inaccessibility, Maoists are using the local tribals for clandestine cultivation of ganja. The local tribals are engaged by the drug mafia for cultivation and then transporting them through deep jungles to select places from where middlemen and drug peddlers ferry the consignment to several places,” the investigation report said.