Medicinal herbs being smuggled in big way in Uttarakhand

Dehradun: The rich diversity of medicinal herbs and plants growing in the wild in the upper and middle reached of Uttarakhand has fallen to smugglers. The forest and concerned departments though in the knowledge that herbs were being smuggled from the wilds in the quiet in large numbers, were shocked to find that the pockets that once flourished with these herbal plants are now without them.

Medicinal herbs being smuggled in big way in Uttarakhand

Though efforts are now being made to somehow salvage the remaining pockets where some of the herbs can still be found in the wild, but it may be a classic example of bolting the doors after the horses have bolted. It is no secret with even the government departments that the various drug manufacturing companies actually encourage the smuggling of the herbs so that they can buy them cheaply.

Locals living in the vicinity of the forests and in the higher reaches exploit the herbs and plants as they get a good price for them in the markets. There are middle men and contractors who buy the medicinal herbs and plants from the villagers and sell them to the drug manufacturing companies and make a quick buck.

It is a win-win situation for all except the forest and other concerned departments. While the villagers are able to make some some money and add to their meager earnings from their land holdings and fields, the contractors and the middle men make a quick buck and take the kill as they buy the herbs from the villagers at dirt cheap prices and sell them to the drug manufacturers at high costs.

The drug manufacturing companies on their part get their supply of the raw material from the middle men and contractors at much lower prices than what they would otherwise have to pay. As such they also actually indirectly encourage the exploitation of the medicinal herbs and plants growing in the wild though none would admit it on record.

There are reports that every year scores of villagers living just below the snow line head for the higher reaches in search of keeda jari, a plants that grows in the wild and is in great demand in Nepal, Tibet and China where it is used as an aphrodisiac and for other ailments. It is priced so highly that it gets its weight in gold and there are a number of middlemen who come from Nepal to the higher reaches of Uttarakhand to get it.

A journalist with over 40 years of experience, Jagdish Bhatt is Editor Hill Post (Uttarakhand). Jagdish has worked with India's leading English dailies, which include Times of India, Indian Express, Pioneer and several other reputed publications. A highly acclaimed journalist, Jagdish is a recipient of many awards, latest being the 2011 Development Journalism Award. He lives in Dehra Dun.

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