Cannabis proceeds used by politicians: Customs officials

SHILLONG: Contradicting news reports that the cannabis grown in char areas (sand islands) of the Brahmaputra and its tributaries along lower Assam is smuggled to Bangladesh, senior officials of the Commissionerate of Customs (Preventive), northeastern region, stated that the yield is not smuggled out across the border but sold in India. They alleged the money is ploughed into the “Indian political system with an aim to drive the indigenous people and tribals to the brim of extinction.”

Interestingly, the arrest of Pakhi Mia, a drug lord with a fair bit of political clout, is an angle that the customs sleuths are examining in order to establish the nexus between cannabis dealers and politicians. A senior customs official divulged on condition of anonymity that Bangladeshi drug lords are not involved in the racket. “Instead, the ganja planters are being patronized by a coterie of political personalities,” he said, refusing to disclose names.

“These inaccessible sand islands have been chosen for growing cannabis by temporary dwellers, evidently foreign nationals, causing great worry to customs officials of the region. It is very difficult to nab the cannabis growers as most of their dwellings are temporary and so are the cultivation areas, which emerge only when the water recedes,” the customs official said.

“Cannabis is used in India for recreation purposes but its cultivation and dealing in it in any form is prohibited under the provisions of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. The value of fully-grown cannabis plants, including semi-dry ganja, grown on 35 bigha of land is estimated at Rs 3 crore. Processed cannabis in the grey market fetches Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 a kg,” the official said.

The customs department has no evidence of druglords operating from Bangladesh in these areas as reported, the official said. “Our intelligence inputs indicate that the huge booty from this illegal cultivation of cannabis goes to the benefit of a handful of politicians to sustain their political ambitions,” he said.

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