.........BALANGIR: Trade in hemp is lucrative, be it cultivating it or facilitating transportation. Such has been the lure that even girls have jumped into the bandwagon. The recent arrest of four girls by Balangir police for carrying the contraband has exposed a shift in trade tactics of the contraband.
Balangir police arrested four young girls, three of them barely out of their teens, and seized 19.4 kg hemp worth `1 lakh from their possession. The incident has taken the enforcement agencies by surprise.The accused are Sangita Bag and Bikasini Sahu of Tarbha in Sonepur district, Sabitri Bag and Kasturi Bag of Paikmal block in Bargarh district. The girls said they were ignorant about the source of the contraband though they had been instructed to deliver it in Rourkela. They said all they were to be paid was `3,000 each on delivery of the contraband. One of the accused said they were lured to act as courier with big offers. Citing family burden as the reason behind their involvement in the trade, the girl said she has a younger sister to look after and an old father suffering from cancer.
It is no secret that hemp is cultivated on large tracts of forest and revenue lands in interior pockets of Sambalpur, Angul, Boudh and Deogarh districts under the patronage of Maoists. The Maoists use the money generated from the sale of contraband to fund terror activities and give a lucrative share to the people.
The Maoists are involved in smuggling of the contraband and their links saw the business flourish in the region. This in turn lured more people into ganja cultivation.
However, after the Maoists were virtually chased out of the area, the ganja business came down drastically. The enforcement agencies, who were earlier afraid of conducting raids and destroying plantation in the interior pockets due to the presence of the Maoists, raided the pockets and destroyed ganja cultivation on vast tracts and arrested several persons.
The gradual clamp down on the cultivation saw a drastic dip both in the cultivation and trading of the contraband. Strengthening the intelligence helped the police stop smuggling by road. After a few instances of hemp being smuggled in trains came to light, Government Railway Police (GRP) and Railway Protection Force (RPF) were put on alert making it difficult to smuggle the contraband to other States, where traders offered good money.
And, when it was believed that smuggling had been finally curtailed, the arrest of the four women has revealed that the new modus operandi is posing a big challenge for the enforcement agencies.