Has the ganja smuggling increased in Visakhapatnam District in the past few months? Officials of the Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) in Vizag certainly believe so. It has been noted that smugglers are finding innovative ways to transport ganja from Visakhapatnam Agency to other districts and even outside the state. The SEB and Visakhapatnam Police officials have been on alert, conducting vehicle checks at more locations in the agency area. A number of smugglers are being caught and large amounts of ganja are being seized.
The interior areas of Vizag Agency are the prime locations where ganja is cultivated. Almost 7 to 8 mandals, of the 11 mandals in the district, are having some level of ganja cultivation. Compared to the situation five years ago, the officials of SEB have seen a lot of changes in the tribals, where many have stopped cultivating ganja and taken alternate crops that would be more economically feasible. According to the SEB officials, security is one major issue holding them back from going into the interiors of Visakhapatnam Agency and destroying the ganja cultivation. These areas apparently house Maoists camps in the agency. Taking up alternative ways to curb ganja, SEB has put its focus on stopping the transportation of ganja by setting up check posts and conducting random vehicle checks. In the last year, the number of check posts across the Vizag agency has increased heavily. Now, any vehicle smuggling ganja, to other districts, has to go through these checks and that is where they get caught.
Thanks to community policing, and campaigns by the rural police, many youths among the tribals have changed their way of thinking and started studying. There are many tribals who give information on ganja smuggling to the SEB and police, helping to curb ganja smuggling. “There are two types of people in the agency. The ones who are against ganja cultivation and others who are cultivating ganja. Those areas with extreme ganja cultivation in the last four years are now accessible for the police to enter. This is because of the support of tribals in the villages who have been educated on the situation,” said an official from SEB (Vizag Rural). It may be recalled that three days back, 1,000 kg of dry ganja worth Rs 1 crore was caught by the SEB teams during checks in Lakshmipuram village in Munchingput Mandal. This area was apparently a hotspot for ganja cultivation four years ago.
According to the SEB officials, their major focus will be on stopping the illegal transportation of ganja to other states and countries. Of late, smugglers have turned to converting ganja into hash oil since it is easier to smuggle. Around 20 kg of ganja can be prepared as 1 litre hash oil which costs Rs 30,000-40,000. There are also rare instances when ganja is made into chocolates. Further, keeping an eye on stock points in the city, the police and SEB officials are also observing college-going youth who are affected with ganja.