K Raju (name changed), originally from the AOB region, was quick to name five to six crops that he produces. He named ginger, pumpkin, rice and a few others including cannabis (ganja).
Not only Raju, but a few others also said that they produce and sell quality weed (hemp). “I grow vegetables and cannabis in hilly areas, but I make more money with cannabis but I don’t have to go anywhere to sell it. Some people will come and collect paying a good sum and I don’t know that growing cannabis is illegal, ”Raju added.
The Vizag agency and the AOB region are quickly becoming the cannabis capital of the country. While cannabis is also cultivated in some states across the country, Vizag and the AOB region have seen a surge in cultivation with Vizag ganja becoming the most popular in the country.
However, another ganja grower, P Janna (name changed) is very aware of the consequences of growing and transporting ganja. Janna is an educated youth, and he knows that trading in cannabis is illegal and punishable. But it continues to be in the trade because of the lure of windfall gains. “We grow ganja with other crops and hand the products over to the agents who transport the products out of the region. An acre of cannabis costs over Rs 2 lakh and we use the money for livelihoods, education and more, ”Janna added.
“Ganja is cultivated on approximately more than 10,000 acres, spread across more than 200 to 250 villages in the Vizag agency and the AOB region. We have launched PARIVARTANA (change), a program that consists of destroying the harvest and raising awareness of the consequences of illegal trade. We explain to them the provisions of the 1985 law on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (NDPS law) in addition to educating them on alternative crops, ”said Deputy Inspector General (Visakha range) LKV Ranga Rao.
A senior police officer, on condition of anonymity, said some middlemen and petty drug dealers were giving cash advances to villagers to grow cannabis. “Hemp is grown mainly on public land (forests and revenues) in the AOB region. Some ganja producers are illiterate and are unaware of the harmful effects of engaging in trade, ”he added.