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‘Kashmir will be poppy free in next four years’: Farmers shun opium cultivation, 77 % land cleared of narcotics

Poppy Fields
FILE PHOTO


Srinagar:  The area under poppy cultivation in Kashmir has declined by over 77 percent this year.

Thanks to extensive anti-narcotics drive and awareness campaign by religious leaders and Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs), poppy cultivation has been contained to a large extent across the valley.

 

Figures released by the J&K Excise Department reveal that poppy crop spread over more than 631 kanals of land have been destroyed in the Kashmir valley till June 4. Anantnag tops the list with authorities destroying poppy crop spread over 357 kanals. It is followed by Pulwama where poppy crop over 142.05 kanals of land have been destroyed by the law enforcement agencies.

Kulgam district has been relegated to the third position. Narcotics spread over 92 kanals of land have been destroyed in the district. Bandipora district has the least area under poppy cultivation. The excise department has destroyed poppy spread over 0.04 kanals of land till June 4. This year, 12 FIRs have been registered so far.

Last year, law enforcement agencies had destroyed poppy crop spread over 2769 kanals of land till June 10. Figures released by Excise Department reveal that poppy crop spread over 991.2 kanals land was destroyed in Budgam district alone till June 11, 2020. It was followed by Baramulla where poppy grown over 417.12 kanals of land was destroyed by the law enforcement agencies.

Poppy spread over 391 kanals of land was destroyed in Pulwama district till June 11, 2020. Likewise, poppy over 93.5 kanals of land was destroyed in the Shopian district last year.

Poppy spread over 307 kanals, 256 kanals, and 312 kanals were destroyed in Anantnag, Kulgam, and Bandipora districts respectively till June 11, 2020. Ganderbal was at the lowest of the table in the poppy destruction.  Poppy over 1.5 kanals of land was destroyed in the district till June 11 last year.

“We had started public outreach programme last year itself. It has paid rich dividends. The area under poppy cultivation has been reduced. We have destroyed poppy over 631 kanals of land this year. In 2020, we had destroyed poppy over 2700 kanals of land. There is a remarkable decline this year. This is very good news,” Tahir Aijaz, the deputy commissioner of the excise department, told The Kashmir Monitor.

 Tahir said they had involved religious scholars, community leaders, and PRI to spread awareness about the poppy. “We are marching on a victory path. If the trend continues, Kashmir will be poppy-free in the next three to four years,” he said.

Poppy cultivation starts soon after the snow starts melting in Kashmir. It is one of the fastest crops that grow in Kashmir. “This year we started soon after the snow started melting. Our efforts paid off,” said Tahir.

Preliminary investigations have revealed that there is an organized syndicate behind the cultivation of poppy. Punjab and Rajasthan have emerged as potential markets for Kashmir poppy. Most of the crop is smuggled to these two states where it is refined into opium and sold at huge prices.