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Beyond Malana Cream: Drug menace spreads in Himachal hills

Photo for representation

Malana, an ancient landlocked village in Himachal, takes pride in being one of the oldest democracies of the world and believes in its supreme deity –Jamlu rishi.

But, there is also a dark side to Malana, which is no longer a secret to the outside world. The solitary village, shadowed by high altitude peaks of Chanderkhani and Deo Tibba in Kullu district, is the biggest producer of world-class charas, taunted as ‘Malana Cream’. The drug- the finest by-product of Cannabis, has the highest demand in the international market, Amsterdam being its most favoured destination.

Malana has become North India’s drug capital—not only for trafficking and smuggling of Charas (Marijuana) and several other forms of banned psychoactive drugs but also their consumption.

The Narcotics Control Bureau in Mumbai has informed the Himachal Pradesh police that some of the big drug seizures, and intelligence inputs point to its back linkages in the hills, primarily the Parvati valley, Malana and Kasol .

Studies done by NGO ‘Yes,’ a group of young professionals working to create awareness against the drug menace among students, found that 65 percent of the youths, including girls—even those attending coaching classes, are addicted to drugs. Some of them have turned into peddlers to fund their doses.

The most common and highly dangerous form of drug being sniffed is “ Chitta” a white powdery substance derived from heroin and laced with other chemicals. It is finding its way to Himachal from Punjab and Delhi.  The drug mafia seeks to expand its market in the hills, especially targeting the youths, and teenagers in small towns” says Sanjeev Gandhi, Superintendent of police Shimla.

 Himachal’s school and college going boys and girls are increasingly falling for the drug. The problem is not confined to any particular demographic area –Shimla, Mcleodganj or Kullu but also rural spaces like Rampur, Rohru, Theog and Kinnaur.

The drugs are either injected or inhaled directly by the young consumers, who are unaware of the consequences or the quantity their bodies can sustain.

“There are drug (overdose) related deaths happening almost weekly in our towns. The families, usually, try their best to conceal, usually don’t report or cover-up. The police also find it convenient to hush up the cases.  As such a large number of deaths remain unreported even today” says former DGP ID Bhandari, who himself had led a few operations in Malana to destroy cannabis crops.

Aditya Kant, young author of the book –‘High on Kasol’, who hails from Kullu says “youths are falling prey to new forms of drug addictions. No one is realising the gravity of the situation either in Punjab or in Himachal Pradesh. The police and enforcement agencies only do some knee-jerk reactions, not enough to solve this burgeoning problem”

The data with the state Narcotics Bureau of Himachal Pradesh police reveals that a record 2,124 persons, including 82 foreigners were arrested under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act in 2021 in 1539 cases. The seizures were an all-time high during the year which included 593 kg of charas, besides huge quantities of opium, Ganja, heroine and poppy husk.

In one of the biggest drug hauls in Himachal Pradesh, the Kullu police had seized 111 kg of charas in January 2021. It was said to be one of the highest seizures in the history of the state so far during an anti-narcotics drive in the state.

In  2022, police arrested 1992 persons, 89 of them foreigners in 1421 cases registered under NDPS Act till November 30.  Total recoveries included 467 kg of charas, besides several other forms of drugs in substantially high quality.

Superintendent of police Shimla, who has a good track record of handling the drug problem in Kangra says he has got strict orders from Chief Minister Sukhwinder Sukhu to smash drug nexus in Shimla as to save young kids lives.

“Since schools/colleges in Shimla right now are closed due to winter vacations, I will use my strategy from period to time. I will have a multi-pronged offensive against the drugs, peddlers and addicts in coming months” he declares.

Director General of police Sanjay Kundu says “war against drugs is a priority number 1 .We have introduced register no 29 at all police stations to keep record of the peddlers and those involved in trafficking .Some of the biggest seizures happened during the past two years”.