Sunday, December 03, 2006


Ganja mafia's reign in Attappadi Hills
By G. Prabhakaran

ATTAPPADI (PALAKKAD), DEC. 1. It is alleged that the `ganja mafia' who is in control of the vast tracts of the Attappadi Reserve Forests, the buffer zone of the Silent Valley National Park and the core area of the Nilgiri Biosphere, in its bid to protect the estimated Rs.800-crore worth ganja getting harvested, is now murdering tribals living in these forest areas.

Two tribals of Palur of the Attappady Hills were allegedly kidnapped and tortured by the `ganja mafia' for giving information about the ganja cultivation to forest officials. Both of them died. Ironically, the forest officials had also allegedly beaten up one of them to get more information.

In the last one year, nearly 50 unnatural deaths that occurred in the Agali and Sholayur police station limits of Attappady are said to be connected with the ganja trade. The bodies were found in the main ganja growing centres like Palur, Edavani, Thudukki, Melethudukki, Galazi, Bhuthayar, Kinnakkara, Kaduku Mannu, Kottiyarkandi, Chenthamara, Kurukkathikkal and Anavayi.

Thousands of acres of forests were destroyed for ganja (Cannabis Sativa) cultivation creating serious environment problems. The Attappady Hills bordering the Nilgiri Hills of Tamil Nadu have become the main centre of ganja cultivation in the State replacing the Idukki forests.

The climatic condition and location makes it ideal for its cultivation and transportation.

Ganja is grown here at a height of 6,000 feet to 7,000 feet, bordering the Kuntha Reserve Forests of Tamil Nadu in the Nilgiri Hills. Two major rivers_the Bhavani and the Vargar_originate from the Kuntha forests.

The ganja planters can enter this area through the Kuntha reserve forest side without coming to the Kerala side. They can also reach the area from Agali and Pudur in Attappady by walking over 15 km through the dense forests of Kerala.

The harvesting season of ganja is from September to December.

A new variety called `Tapasi' which yields nearly 5 kg of dry ganja from a single plant is the most favoured one. Earlier, there was only one harvest in a year. However, `Tapasi' is harvested twice a year. The ganja harvest is during the Onam (August-September) and Christmas season (November-December).

Since it is time for harvesting of ganja in the Attappadi forests, the mafia is active in the area and anybody coming in its way is mercilessly killed.

It is alleged that the anti-narcotic cells under the Central and State Governments turn a blind eye to the criminal activities of the ganja mafia. In the case of the tribals' death recently, the Agali and Sholayur police stations could not arrest the culprits or make any progress in the inquiry into these cases.

The ganja cultivators intrude into the tribal settlements and bribe or threaten them. The tribal hamlets inside the forests are used to store ganja. The tribals are forced to identify ideal locations for cultivation. They are also used as carriers to transport the dry ganja to places like Coimbatore, Mannarkkad, Palakkad, Kozhikode, Perinthalmanna.

Many youngsters are languishing in jails in Tamil Nadu and Kerala after having been arrested in connection with the cultivation and transport of ganja. But the authorities seldom arrest the real cultivators.

There are mainly two types of cultivators. One is by the mafia who finances the cultivation. Under this, two-thirds of the spoils are given to the investor and one-third to those who actually cultivate it.

The others are ganja planting workers who have migrated from Idukki and other parts. They clear the forest and raise ganja in plots measuring two acres to five acres. They stay there for six months and leave after the harvest.

Though there were some raids by the forest, excise, revenue and police officials in Attappady recently, they could not destroy even one per cent of the vast ganja cultivation. The Department officials claim that they have no resources to conduct raids in the interior areas. One raid costs at least Rs.45,000.

However, the Central and State Governments spent crores of rupees for controlling the narcotic trade.

The stringent laws of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (Central Act 61 to 1985), empowers the Forest Department also to take action against the culprits.

However, it is alleged that since the ganja mafia has got political patronage and the international drug mafia's support, there are only half-hearted measures against the ganja cultivators.


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