Over 10 sq km of the Himalayan hillside and even peaks were covered in illicit 'ganja' crop.
In latest action against cannabis cultivation in Himachal Pradesh, the Central Bureau of Narcotics has destroyed the illicit crop over 1,032 hectares in Kullu district over the past two weeks. Drone footage released by the bureau shows hills filled with matured crop of cannabis — spread over 10 square kilometres — which remains one of the mainstays of local 'black' economy and an attraction for tourists chasing 'ganja' or 'charas'.
The bureau acted on "specific intelligence" and deployed four teams, said a press note. "Officers further carried out physical surveys, resulting in detection of more areas of illicit cultivation."
Drones were deployed and satellite mapping of suspect areas was done too. The destruction was carried out with support of the district administration, the forest department and police. "Community mobilisation was adopted by sensitising villagers about adverse effects of drugs on body and mind," read the press note.
Cannabis being destroyed in Kullu district.
Labour for the cannabis destruction was not readily available as most of the workers are engaged in apple and pomegranate harvesting.
"But that failed to deter the bureau's teams... in hostile terrain with steep slopes and rains. The officers climbed daily up to 11,000 feet above sea level and even camped in sensitive areas to expedite the destruction. Later on, officers from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence also joined this operation," the note added.
An officer holds up one of the giant cannabis plants destroyed.
The Central Bureau of Narcotics works under the Department of Revenue, Union Ministry of Finance. Destruction of illicit cultivation of cannabis and opium is among its main tasks. It has carried out similar operations in West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Uttarakhand, "resulting in destruction of more than 25,000 hectares of illicit cultivation of opium and cannabis over the years".
"Mission Crackdown shall continue with same vigour in other parts of the country," said Rajesh F Dhabre, Narcotics Commissioner.