Illegal hybrid cannabis fields, that produce high quality hashish, are in full bloom, flourishing in over 18,000 bighas of forest land. Most of it are being cultivated on higher hidden patches at Manali, Halaan and Lug, Parbati, Sainj and Tirthan valleys, remote isolated areas of Waiching, Ougal and Malunder Thatch around Malana and Khanag-Baishlidhar area of the Ani subdivision in this district.
The cannabis has been detected in villages around Manali, Halan-1 and Halan-II, Lug valley, Manikaran-Tosh-Pulga-Kheerganga belt, Pinsu, Malunder, Ougal Thatch, Rasol areas in Parbati valley.
The recently launched anti-drug drive is yet to reach these areas even as the contraband is being harvested in lower altitude, revealed local residents.
According to sources, drug dealers and charas mafias continue to cultivate the hybrid cannabis in the remote forest areas which are allegedly manned by migratory Nepalese labourers who make fast buck from the illegal trade. The fact that they are operating right under the nose of the police also cannot be denied.
The story is no different in certain pockets of Shimla, Sirmaur and Chamba districts, they added.
At Malana village, a drug dealer, allegedly in connivance with a few locals, has cultivated the high-quality cannabis in isolated patches in the Waiching and Chandrakhani area in over 500 bighas. The police opened its post near the village recently and villagers have stopped cultivating on private land.
Anti-drug drives and training camps, conducted by the HP Judicial Academy at Manali recently, have yet to achieve results.
The illegal cultivation is making it difficult for cooperative societies and the NGOs trying to win over villagers to grow alternative crops, said OP Sharma, founder of the Malana Vikalp.
“The forest staff should be made accountable under the NDPS Act,” he asserted.
Also, the illegal cultivation is showing no signs of abetting as local politicians have been promising poor illiterate villagers that they are legalising cultivation of opium and cannabis like it has been done in certain states in the country, the sources pointed.
Kullu SP KK Indoria said a team, comprising over 150 men, had already destroyed cannabis and poppy in the Ani, Khanag and Banjar areas in over 2,100 bighas, so far.
“We have involved the forest, revenue and PWD departments, besides local villagers, under MNREGA and the response is very positive,” he said.
Kullu Forest Conservator PK Sharma said forest field staff was coordinating with the police. However, they had no exact information about the forest areas under illegal cultivation. DFO Anil Kumar said the matter was being looked into.