Anger Over Poppy Seeds Import

The poppy farmers of MP, Rajasthan and UP are agitating against the UPA Govt's decision of importing poppy seeds from Turkey. They are saying that the Govt is not giving poppy farming license as per their demand. Reports Raju Kumar  
Anger Over Poppy Seeds Import

Conflict between opium poppy growers and the Centre is intensifying day by day. The growers are facing economic crisis after the decision on import of poppy seeds from Turkey. Central government decided to import poppy seeds from Turkey to fulfill the domestic demand which the domestic opium poppy cultivators are unable to accomplish. In spite of this situation opium growers are reacting angrily in Madhya Pradesh to ban on poppy seeds imports.

India has huge domestic demand for poppy seed and domestic cultivators are unable to fulfill the same. Poppy growers stated that the increased demand for poppy seed can be fulfilled by increasing the total area under opium cultivation in India. They are annoyed because instead of protecting the interest of its farmers, the government has decided to import opium seeds from outside. Farmers allege that the total production of poppy seed in Turkey is less than what the Indian government has decided to import. The poppy seeds that smuggled from Afghanistan routed to Turkey actually reached India, and thus the Indian money is being transferred to opium smugglers or the militants. However, the Narcotics Department does not admit the it, but asserts that they import only the quantity which the Turkish officials claim to be produced in Turkey for export.

In Neemuch and Mandsaur districts of Malwa-Nimar region in Madhya Pradesh, traditionally known as the black gold, raw opium is being cultivated since the colonial time. Apart from them, the farmers from Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh also cultivate poppy for opium. Remarkably, India is the world’s only producer of legal raw opium in gum form. And here farmers have been cultivating raw opium for four to five generations.

It exports dried opium to western drug makers. Basically, opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) plant is the source of opium gum which contains several indispensable alkaloids such as morphine, codeine and thebaine. Morphine is the best analgesic in the world. The cultivation of opium poppy is spread over 22 districts in the states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. In the year 2012-2013, 46,621 cultivators obtained licenses who harvested 5,619 hectares. The NDPS Act empowers the Central Government to permit and regulate cultivation of opium poppy for medical and scientific purposes. Poppy seed is produced from opium poppy.

Radheshyam Danger, Chairperson of Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, Neemach, says, “The Government is neglecting the interest of growers. Government can give more license to increase cultivation and fulfill the domestic demand. It also can provide training on how to increase productivity in our fields.’ He added that because of the wrong policies of the government the total land area under opium cultivation had come down. And owing to low production, license of the poppy cultivators are being rejected. In 1970, it was compulsory to show production just 20 kgs of opium in one hectare of land and now the compulsion amplified to minimum 58 kgs.  If the production is less than that licenses got cancelled. One opium farmer gets license of maximum 15 Airee.  One hectare land has 100 Airee.  Poor cultivation resulted in decline in the production. If farmers show maximum production in their field then they get more Airee.”

On the issue of farmers’ anxiety on import of opium seeds, Vijay Kalsi, Commissioner, Central Bureau of Narcotics (CBN), Gwalior, says, “India is having demand of some 20-25 thousand metric tonnes of poppy seed. But the farmers could hardly grow 4,000 metric tones. In such condition, we are left with only option to import it. For increasing production, the total area under poppy needs to be increased but we don’t want that opium should be produced more than it is needed. Poppy is cultivated as per the need of opium and not on the basis of demand of poppy seeds.”

Bansilal Gurjar, state’s chief of Bhartiya Kisan Morcha, says, “Import of poppy seeds is not just neglecting the interest of our farmers but is also promoting smuggling.” He claimed that Turkey doesn’t produce the quantity of poppy seeds which was agreed upon in the agreement done by Narcotics Department with Turkey.

It is not worthy that Ayurved Sevashram Kalyan Samiti has filed a PIL (No. 22067/2013) with the Allahabad High Court. On 29th Nov 2013, the High Court gave a judgment: “Import of poppy seeds will continue till self-sufficiency is achieved. The policy is to allow import of poppy seeds from any country provided it has originated in any of the countries authorised internationally to grow opium poppy for export and it has been legitimately cultivated. No import will be allowed from countries where opium poppy is not legitimately cultivated. All contracts for import of poppy seeds will be compulsorily registered with the Narcotics Commissioner. Before registering such contracts, the Narcotics Commissioner shall satisfy that the country from which the poppy seeds are proposed to be imported legally cultivates opium poppy and can produce the quantity of seeds which are sought to be imported.”

In regard to this judgment when an advocate of Allahabad High Court asked the Department of Turkish Grain Board, it was informed that the quantity available for export of white poppy seeds in Turkey is 3000 MT. Then, in Sishir Prakash’s, an advocate, letter to various ministries reflects the live registered contracts for import of white poppy seeds with Narcotics Control Bureau is for more than 70-80 thousand MT which is 20 times more than their actual production.

The Changing Face of Rural India