PATNA: The rampant cultivation of opium (poppy seeds) in some villages in naxal-affected Gaya district and near the Indo-Bangladesh border in Kishanganj district of Bihar has baffled the state administration. Interestingly, residents of Simalbari village under Kishanganj district were equally surprised to know that the new crop being grown in their village was opium and its cultivation was an offense liable for prosecution under the narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (NDPS) act.
According to reports reaching the state police headquarters here, the district magistrate and SP of Gaya raided three naxal-affected villages in Mohanpur block on a tip-off that opium was being grown by some farmers there. The officials found that opium was illegally grown in these villages, although on a small scale. They estimated the total area under illegal cultivation to be around 1.5 acres. The identity of the actual land owners or those growing the illegal crop could not be ascertained as all the male members had absconded from the villages after seeing the posse of armed police forces.
DM Jitendra Srivastava asked revenue officials to find out who the actual owners of the land were. Meanwhile, the police have registered a case under the NDPS act. The DM has also sought people's co-operation in detecting opium cultivation in other parts of the district and has promised to keep the identity of informers confidential and also reward them suitably.
It is believed that the drug was being cultivated under the patronage of naxals as the area is considered to be their stronghold. The Kishanganj police also unearthed illegal cultivation of opium on a four-acre plot at Simalbari village. The actual owners of the land confessed before that they had given their land on lease to a person called Mohammed.
Ziaul Haque and Mohd Nazmul are residents of another village along the Indo-Bangladesh border. A tract of land was leased out to them for Rs1,700 through one of their relatives. The land owners and villagers were stunned to learn the crop, which planters said was a new variety of mustard from Assam, was actually opium. When police raided the village of the planters they were found absconding. A case was registered against them.