Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has declared an "all-out war" on illegal drugs - specifically the cultivation and use of cannabis (ganja) - and ordered the state's police force to develop a comprehensive action plan to "totally eradicate ganja production".
The Chief Minister also demanded an end to gambling and illicit liquor, calling for stringent measures, including surveillance of educational institutions, to achieve these ends. He has also offered rewards, including cash, and special promotions for successful officials.
The orders were handed down at a high-level meeting of police officials and the excise department in Hyderabad on Wednesday. A government statement said the Chief Minister told officials they needed to act "before the situation gets out of hand and becomes severe..."
"We achieved Telangana state after a long fight. We achieved several targets with development as the aim (and) our police are maintaining excellent law-and-order... we controlled extremism... prestige and respect of state has gone up. It is unfortunate that availability of banned drugs has increased," the Chief Minister, or KCR, said at the meeting.
"If we do not remove this malady, there is a danger the victories we have registered will go waste. Police and Excise officials should take serious note of these warning bells," he said.
"I have convened this meeting with pain, concern. One can see the situation based on reports that estranged youth are forming WhatsApp groups, exchanging messages, and taking drugs. Innocent youth are becoming prey to drug peddlers," the Chief Minister declared.
He warned officials that weaning addicts of drugs was a long and complicated process, and urged them to strike now and stop people from getting hooked on the dangerous substances.
"Eradicate ganja mafia and don't spare the criminals, whoever they may be," he ordered.
A special team - to be led by a police officer of DG rank - has been formed. Excise Commissioner Sarfraj Ahmed has been told to strengthen his squads, and the state's Intelligence Department has been told to form a team to strengthen the communication network.
The orders come a day after Hyderabad Police arrested a drug peddler - with links to the trade in Maharashtra, Gujarat and UP - and seized 40 kg of ganja that is worth an estimated Rs 4 lakh.
A few days earlier a huge 300 kg shipment worth Rs 30 lakh was seized, also in Hyderabad.
With input from ANI