By: Jayesh Sravan
Kullu: The Valley of Gods, it seems, is finally awakening to a harsh reality – that of being crowned the cannabis kingdom. The foreigners who went missing from here over the years may never return to narrate their romance with the intoxicating herb, but some locals for sure have decided to beware and guard themselves against the silent killer.
Residents of Kullu town have now gathered courage to team up against the evil, for which they are even holding night patrolling.
Taking turns to keep vigil on roads and narrow lanes that criss-cross the town during night, these residents, mostly parents of youngsters who have already been made slaves by drug addiction, claim that drug lords mostly roam the town after sunset. The irony being that while cannabis is being smuggled out of the valley, the local youth is falling prey to other intoxicants like smack brought into the valley. And even more appalling reality is that though the whole valley knows that a generation is going waste, no one is speaking up against it openly, not even those who have come forward to keep night vigil.
The reason being that those involved in the trade are also mostly locals, and allegedly well connected, be it a petty dealer or big supplier. As no one wants to come up openly against anybody; the police force too finds itself handicapped to an extent. But some locals, requesting anonymity, claim that they had been forwarding several written complaints to the police, some even mentioning names of people involved in the trade, but nothing comes out of it.
The police and the narcotics department, on the other hand, speak nothing beyond the number of cannabis-destroying campaigns carried out by them. The media, it seems, is infatuated with Malana village, as almost all stories carried out in newspapers or broadcast over television on the issue do not go beyond this hamlet, which supposedly produces ‘world-famous’ Malana Cream. And as per one particular news report, this village too has decided to ‘give up’ its traditional source of livelihood.
Disappearance and murder of a number of foreigners in the Kullu valley and increase in crime rate over the last decade, however, indicate that the problem, in fact, is increasing. During the recent state Vidhan Sabha session, a senior MLA even named a foreign national, alleging that she had been operating the whole drug trade from the valley. In fact, as per sources, the whole contraband trade in the valley is controlled by foreigners, who get fields in the higher ranges leased out every year to grow poppy. The states are high as is evident from the increasing crime rate in the area with even foreigners becoming targets many times.
Now, that’s the general overview of what ails the valley, with everyone making wild guesses about the amount of money involved in trading contrabands. The tragedy being that while the mainstream media and the NGO sector have overlooked the basic issue, even the state government has failed to see an entire generation of locals go waste. Locals admit that every second youth in the valley has fallen prey to either marijuana, heroine or smack, the later two being imported from outside the state. If we look at organisations running de-addiction centres in the district, the list does not appear impressive. In fact, there are hardly any except for a couple of them running par-time centres. The most prominent de-addiction centre was opened in Manali in 2005, but that was initiated by the Israeli government to save their youths, who visit the place in large numbers, from drugs.
But, even if there had been enough number of de-addiction centres, ground realities would hardly have allowed a positive change. This implies that the problem lies much deeper than what the cannabis roots can penetrate. On a sunny summer afternoon, this writer saw a young man in his thirties making a deal with a higher secondary school boy for selling smack in the middle of Kullu town. Enquiries from neighbouring shopkeepers confirmed that he had been selling the contraband for years and had also served a 10-year jail term. So why is he into the trade once again? Perhaps, because there is money in it and enough scope to influence the law enforcing agencies to get away. In 2006, 105 persons were arrested in connection with 111 cases registered, out of which 75 were Indians, nine foreigners and 21 Nepalese. That career paddlers are freely selling contrabands is reason enough to believe that the figures given above represent just the tip of the iceberg.
On a different day, high up in the Barsaini area, a nine-year-old boy was spotter offering Rs-10 pouch of cannabis to a foreigner. Now was that blissful ignorance or by design? Perhaps both. These are just two examples of different factors that mystify the larger issue, but for those already hooked by the evil there is hardly any time left. Hope perhaps lies with the gods.