Raipur: Chhattisgarh's restive Bastar region is fast turning into a hotspot for growing marijuana with Maoist guerrillas making farmers switch to the cash crop, say police officials.
"Maoists are pushing farmers in far-off parts of the region to take to growing 'ganja' (marijuana)," Bastar Superintendent of Police BL Meena told reporters.
Marijuana is being grown in large areas in Bastar and Dantewada districts bordering Andhra Pradesh and Odisha and in Jashpur district bordering Jharkhand, where police have little access and guerrillas run a parallel government.
"The state administration is aware of the cultivation of marijuana in certain areas of Chhattisgarh. It is devising ways to end this menace," the home department's principal secretary N.K. Aswal told reporters.
According to police, the guerrillas took to the new practice after the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) opened a cell in state capital Raipur to curb their drug smuggling trade.
The southern part of Chhattisgarh comprising the Bastar and Sarguja regions, many parts of which are Maoist strongholds, is ideal for drug peddling as it borders Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Jharkhand, also affected by insurgency.
Drugs from Nepal find their way to the southern states via Raipur.
Earlier, marijuana was smuggled through the Odisha border and supplied to other parts of the country, Raipur being the transit point, said an official.
Police say guerrillas play an important role in the drug network.
Maoists are active in areas bordering Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand and Maharashtra.
In the absence of an independent NCB office in Chhattisgarh, the bureau in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, had been monitoring the situation. As such, the volume of marijuana entering Chhattisgarh is believed to be massive, officials said.
Now, the new NCB in Raipur has put pressure on the drug supply line of Maoists, say police.
Due to this, Maoists are cajoling farmers to take to farming marijuana, which fetches more money than paddy.