Kolkata: In Kaliachak block of West Bengal’s Malda district, where a lakh-strong mob set fire to the local police station earlier this month, authorities are working to destroy large tracts of poppy fields.
Poppy is used to make narcotics – opium, brown sugar and heroin. It is big business in Malda, involving big money and big names. The police say the poppy-opium mafia of Malda may be behind the January 3 mob violence, when protesters attacked the police station and damaged vehicles parked there.
Poppy is allegedly grown on 12,000 bighas in Malda, sources say. The money involved is huge.
At Domaichak, barely 20 km from the Kaliachak police station, at least half-a-dozen tractors are destroying poppy grown over 25 bighas of land. The operation is being conducted by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), the Border security Force (BSF) and the local police. The value of poppy destroyed, said NCB sources, was about Rs. 1 crore.
The BJP has alleged that the attack on Kaliachak police station was “aimed at destroying evidence of wrong-doings.” “Acres after acres of land is under opium farming in Malda. Why is your (Mamata Banerjee’s) administration sleeping and turning a blind eye,” the party’s national secretary Sidharth Nath Singh had said after a three-member party delegation was stopped from visiting Kaliachak.
Police claim they have been cracking down on poppy cultivation lately and the seizure of opium from Malda has gone up from 6.6 kg two years ago to 22 kg last year.
Who owns the land where poppy is cultivated? Locals fled when we asked this question. One youth politely suggested it was time the NDTV team left.
Even Domaichak’s Panchayat office could not throw any light on the issue.
Satyajit Mitra, secretary of the Shahbajpur Panchayat office said, “The land records office should know. We warn people against opium cultivation. We hold meetings where police are present. They should know what’s going on.”
Some names crop up, spoken in whispers. Ask about their political links and the best informed sources dry up. None are among the 11 people arrested so far for the mob violence.
Two of the most “dreaded” names are based in Kaliachak. Were their records burnt down at the Kaliachak police station?
The poppy fields of Malda hold many secrets.
Report by Monideepa Banerjie Published in NDTV