Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Drug (Heroin) Trade is Alive and Well in South Kashmir

Big money, corruption, lax oversight and collective criminal farming impede efforts to halt the drug trade

Expanding poppy fields in South Kashmir flourish drug trade

Abdul Mohamin

Pulwama: The drug trade is flourishing in south Kashmir as expanded poppy fields are brining a fortune to the farmers.The farmers in Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam areas of south Kashmir have increased the cultivable land under poppy as the crop fetches them a good amount in the market.

Though the farmers say they cultivate it for seed production which is used by the bakers but in reality the cultivation done to extract latex is used for producing opium which later can be turned into heroin. The husk of the seed pods called phukhi is also produced from this crop.

“Most people lie that they extract seeds from this crop. Everything is done in an organized manner. The farmers cultivate it for the smugglers who extract the whitish sap from the plant which they later sell,” said Ghulam Ahmed Shah, a teacher in one of the local schools at Pulwama.

According to locals, the crop was earlier shown for the purpose of extracting seeds but later the smugglers turned it into a lucrative business by first giving good price to the villagers first for phukhi and later luring them to go for this cultivation for extracting the sap, which is more costly than phukhi.

“This time the smugglers are collecting the sap from the cultivators who are in league with them,” said Muhammad Subhan Dar, a local. “They pay them in advance and have started collecting the sap. The dried husk later brought also fetches good price in the market."

The Jammu and Kashmir Excise Department has cited this profitable outcome from the crop as the main reason for more cultivation. “The poppy seeds only fetch Rs 200 per kg in the market, while phukhi fetches 600 per kg and the sap collected fetches much more,” said Najamuddin, the Deputy Excise Commissioner.

The department last year destroyed narcotic substances on 2100 kanal land which also included cannabis. This year, according to Najamuddin the department has fixed a target of destroying narcotic cultivation on 2700 kanal. “In the first phase we are focusing on the destruction of poppy cultivation on 1500 kanal land particularly in Pulwama. We have destroyed the crop in Gulzarpora,” said Najamuddin. “The cultivators are using novel method to escape detection. They sow peas and grass around the poppy fields and it becomes difficult to detect them,” he said.

About the scale of drug trade and the method employed by the smugglers, Najamuddin pleaded ignorance. “Last year we registered several cases against the cultivators but we do not know who runs this trade and what is done with extracts collected and their processing,” said Najamuddin.

However, locals said that crime is picking up and becoming more organized and added that law enforcing agencies are playing a part in letting it thrive. “The law enforcing agencies are turning a blind eye to this. Corruption is a major problem. They support the farmers from the level of cultivation to trafficking,” said Ajaz Ahmed.

“The police has to act now as the crop is ready for extracting latex or it may be too late.” SP Operations Abdul Qayoom Thakur said that police is fighting the crime with an iron fist and we will destroy the crop wherever we locate it. “We have not fixed any targets about destruction of poppy. It will be destroyed wherever we find.” said Takhur. According to him the investigation revealed so far has led to the conclusion that latex is collected in a raw form and processed outside the state. About the phuki, Qayoom said that its local market has increased but the main customers are the truck drivers from other states.

(Rising Kashmir)

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