Manali: Like Goa, Delhi and Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh has also turned into a major attraction for foreign tourists. Sadly, far more than its outstanding geography, people and culture, the tourist influx reveals a deadly narcotic nexus. An increasing number of localities are falling prey to this business and drug addiction.
In Himachal Pradesh the growing narcotics menace has gripped a good number of young people in Kullu, Manali, Mandi and Shimla. The narcotics trade is assuming horrific shape in Kullu where a large numbers of tourists, mostly Israelis, pour in every year.
Nearly 5,00,000 international tourists visit Himachal Pradesh each year and they move about in different parts of the state. Most popular destinations are Shimla, Kullu, Manali, and Dharamshala.
With cannabis plants abundantly growing in the wild in many parts of the state, many tourists are attracted to the state for the easy availability of marijuana. A trade in narcotics has grown and has encouraged the local cultivator to illicitly grow contraband crops of poppy or cannabis illegally for earning easy money.
Most of the cannabis and poppy cultivation is done in the remote villages of Kullu, Chuhar valley of Mandi and the upper reaches of Chamba, where many of the village folk have simply abandoned cultivation of other crops.
Opium cultivation has led to a gloomy transformation and has become a harbor for drug peddlers, who freely trade and use cocaine, brown sugar, smack, and other narcotics. Worse, the situation is becoming alarming as the peddlers, which include foreigners, are even targeting school children and college going students.
In Kullu valley, charas peddling has been noticed in close vicinity to Government Senior Secondary Schools and High Schools at Manali, Kullu, Mohal, Bajaura, Bhuntar, Katrain and Banjar.
Often found near schools and colleges are used silver foils, cigarette butts and sticks used for taking brown sugar and smack. Drugs and narcotics are said to be easily available at Akhara Bazar, Durganagar, Lower Dhalpur, Upper Sultanpur and Shishamatil localities. Medicines like Alprazomen, Engzit and Axinil, used for narcotic purposes, are available without prescriptions at Kullu, Bhuntar, Manali and other places.
Of all the tourists visiting Kullu Manali, Israeli tourists outnumber other nationalities and their domination of the trade is visible from the fact that some people of Kasol village in Kullu have even learnt to speak Hebrew! A strange culture bound together by cannabis has come up in this secluded valley as more than 3000 Israelis have made Kasol and its neighbourhood their home.
Other nationalities that can be found in large numbers in the valley are Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Holland. Foreigners have made Kullu’s Kasol a cannabis base.
“Every year the area under cannabis cultivation has been increasing, thanks to the patronage by foreigners,” says Padam Chand, Kullu District police chief. “One set of foreigner brings in hybrid cannabis seeds, another set who resides here give it out for cultivation and monitors it through the local folks. The produce is then smuggled out by villagers to Delhi, Mumbai and Goa to be shipped abroad. The new inhabitants have even rechristened the valley habitats. For instance, a hidden valley in Malana (about 15 Km from here), is called Magic Valley, and another neighbouring valley is called the Waichin Valley.”
These valleys have virtually become homelands for foreigners. They not only stay for years, but also marry local girls and settle down.
The drug trade valued at about Rs 900 crore is controlled by local drug mafia under the supervision of handlers from Israel and Italy. Cultivation is done under headline fields, in lower and more accessible regions, which could suffer complete loss, should the police arrive. But fields in the high mountains are left untouched and production flourishes.
Good quality charas such as Malana Cream can fetch as much as Rs 3000/- per gram whereas it may just cost Rs 100/- to 200/- per gram in the valley.
Five year (2011 – 2015) Himachal Pradesh Drug Crime / NDPS Act Arrests Table