BHUBANESWAR: The state police on Sunday said they are set to adopt the latest technology to locate ganja plants which are being cultivated in inaccessible Maoist-dominated districts.
Director general of police R P Sharma said the Odisha Space Applications Centre (ORSAC) is already on the job of collecting the latest satellite images of zones where ganja has been planted.
"We have been receiving satellite images from ORSAC but they are not of a great quality and cannot help us detect the exact locations where ganja cultivation is rife. However, with the latest geographic information system and satellite data they will be able to help us pinpoint where ganja is being grown," Sharma told on Sunday.
Of the 30 districts in Odisha, the eight Left-wing affected ones - Angul, Deogarh, Sambalpur, Gajapati, Kandhamal, Rayagada, Malkangiri and Boudh - are also the pockets which see the most rampant illegal ganja cultivation. Police said Maoists in the region depend heavily on ganja trade and have been supporting such cultivation. Cultivators have, since last year, expanded to the inhospitable terrains in Malkangiri, Kandhamal, Koraput, Rayagada and Gajapati districts. "We hope to trace their location soon with the help of the satellite data. They have been moving towards those areas mostly because we continue to crack down on illegal ganja cultivation," Sharma said.
The top cop credited police personnel with destroying ganja plants across 199 acres in the Maoist stronghold of Malkangiri in 2017-18. "In comparison, only 33 acres of ganja plants were destroyed in the district in 2016-17. Also, for the first time, we managed to destroy 28 acres of ganja in Koraput in 2017-18, where we could not have similar operations earlier due to Maoist threat," Sharma said.
Additional director general of police (crime branch) Santosh Upadhayay said a total of 4,407 acres of illegal ganja plants have been destroyed in seven districts (Angul, Boudh, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Rayagada, Malkangiri and Koraput) during the crop year of 2017-18. "We had set a target to destroy 3,050 acres of ganja plants during the year. We achieved more than the target. This is an all-time record," Upadhyay said.
The state government recently decided to invoke Section 46 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act against those land owners who allow cultivation of cannabis and poppy and fail to inform police, excise or forest authorities regarding such cultivation. The hilly terrain of the region further makes crackdown difficult for police. Last year, 420 cases were registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 476 quintals of ganja was seized and 700 persons arrested.