Many tribal youth are being lured into ganja peddling in the State, the Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) officials have said, adding that smugglers from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Telangana and other States are running their trade by establishing contacts with the local ganja cultivators.
The Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) and police have seized about 2.70 lakh kg ganja worth more than ₹150 crore after the bureau was formed in the State. The smugglers are roping in tribal people and the youth, especially students, for transporting the contraband to other States by paying paltry amounts, the officials say.
“As many as 2,039 lakh cases have been registered against ganja smugglers and 5,411 persons have been arrested. The police have seized 1,404 vehicles used for transportation of the contraband,” SEB Commissioner Vineet Brijlal told The Hindu. The arrested include women and peddlers from the neighbouring States. Instructions have been issued to act tough on them, said SEB Director P.H.D. Ramakrishna.
“The SEB has launched a war against ganja trade. A joint operation has been planned with the police in the Andhra-Odisha Border (AOB) region and the agency areas in Visakhapatnam and East Godavari district. We will conduct raids and destroy the stocks at the cultivation points,” said Mr. Brijlal.
Besides, the officials of the Prohibition and Excise Department, Government Railway Police (GRP) and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) have registered cases and seized the contraband.
Krishna district Superintendent of Police (SP) Siddharth Kaushal said vigil had stepped up on the National Highways and at the border check-posts to prevent ganja smuggling.
“We have identified many youth who are addicted to ganja. They, along with their parents, are being counselled. More than 100 students have been counselled so far in phases,” said Vijayawada Police Commissioner B. Srinivasulu.
The officials said that the kingpins of the trade were transporting the contraband in different modes. The smuggling gangs were using pilot vehicles to inform those shifting the contraband in two-wheelers, cars, buses and lorries about the checking. West Godavari SP Rahul Dev Sharma said that vulnerable points had been identified and an ‘Anti-drug Drive’ had been launched in educational institutions to prevent youth from falling prey to the ganja addiction.
In many cases, the kingpins from other States were using tribal people and the youth to transport the stocks. Police are trying to arrest the kingpins, said an SEB officer.
The smugglers are procuring ganja from the agency areas at ₹1,500 a kg, which is sold at ₹5,000 a kg in other States and more than ₹10,000 in metro cities, said a police officer. “The police have seized about 4,000 kg ganja in West Godavari district, which was being smuggled to Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana,” said Mr. Sharma.