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Cablegate: West Bengal Police Concerned by Rising Opium Cultivation In

VZCZCXRO5619
PP RUEHBI RUEHCI
DE RUEHCI #0264/01 2431300
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 311300Z AUG 07
FM AMCONSUL KOLKATA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1664
INFO RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 0700
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0458
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 0310
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0461
RUEHBK/AMEMBASSY BANGKOK 0172
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 0374
RUEHBUL/AMEMBASSY KABUL 0059
RUEABND/DEA HQ WASHDC
RHMFIUU/JIATF WEST
RUEILB/NCTC WASHINGTON DC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 2044
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1575
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 0701

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KOLKATA 000264

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DELHI PLEASE PASS DEA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR SNAR KCRM IN BG NP
SUBJECT: WEST BENGAL POLICE CONCERNED BY RISING OPIUM CULTIVATION IN
DISTRICTS ALONG THE BANGLADESH BORDER

1. (SBU) Summary: In the past three months, West Bengal Police
have recovered 13 kilograms of opium worth USD 600,000,
reflecting an apparent increase in illicit narcotic activity in
the state. According to police officials, farmers in the
state's Nadia district, lured by the prospect of higher returns,
have diverted approximately 50,000 acre of land to illicit poppy
cultivation. Although police have so far found no laboratory, a
contact told post that poppy was being locally processed and
trafficked to Nepal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and the Northeast.
With the poppy sowing season starting in September, law
enforcement agencies have threatened farmers with punitive
action if they seek to cultivate illicit poppy. Post has not
been able to corroborate the full extent of the acreage under
illicit poppy cultivation but consensus among contacts clearly
indicates an increase in illegal narcotics along the
India-Bangladesh border. End Summary.

2. (SBU) During a raid in early August, the Narcotics Cell of
West Bengal Police's Criminal Investigation Department (CID)
seized 4 kilogram of opium and 25 kilogram of poppy straw from a
house in Nadia district's Tehatta block, located about 250 miles
North of Kolkata. CID claimed that the opium recovered could
produce 850 grams of heroin worth USD 240,000. The early August
raid was part of a three-month drive by the CID that had already
yielded 9 kilogram of opium seizures.

3. (SBU) On June 12, CID officers raided the house of Ganesh
Biswas and Bijoy Biswas, residents of Satikhali village in
Nadia, and found 2,200 gram of opium. The police arrested the
two and charged them under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic
Substances (NDPS) Act. On June 8, the CID arrested Safiqul
Islam from the Uttar Nidhitarpara village of the neighboring
Murshidabad district. About 550 grams of heroin was found. On
May 22, the CID raided Abu Taleb Sheikh's house in Baruipara
village, in Nadia, and seized 650 grams of opium. On May 16,
the police raided a hotel at Bethuadahari in Nadia and arrested
Nabin Mondal. The raid yielded 5,500 grams opium. Mondal was a
resident of Plassey, in the same district.

4. (U) These raids, yielding 13 kilogram of opium in recent
months, have prompted the police to believe that Nadia,
Murshidabad and North 24 Parganas districts of West Bengal have
turned into fertile grounds for opium trafficking, cultivation
and production. In the previous year, the police arrested 200
people just in Nadia for their role in illicit opium trade and
cultivation. The three districts are contiguous, located north
of Kolkata, and all share international border with Bangladesh.

5. (U) The GOWB is becoming concerned about the emergence of
these three border districts as major centers for illicit opium
production. The CID, along with the Border Security Force
(BSF), has warned the local village administrators to curb
illicit cultivation or face penal action. Nadia district
administration has identified four blocks - Tehatta, Karimpur,
Kaliganj and Nakashipara - where it found that opium is being
cultivated on a large scale. Media reports, quoting the police
chief of Nadia, indicated that about 50,000 acres were already
under illicit poppy cultivation in Nadia district.

6. (SBU) Contacts told post that the illicit cultivation in
these districts started about five years ago. Farmers have been
eager to use their field for opium cultivation as the returns
were more lucrative than conventional cash crops. A 1.5-acre
farm yields 1.5 kilogram of opium. Each kilogram of opium sells
for between USD 750 and USD 850. The poppy sowing starts in
September and the crop is harvested in March. Local officials
working with the CID are seeking to crackdown on the cultivation
prior to the next sowing season.

7. (SBU) The CID has offered little detail about the network
that moves the produce from the fields. However, carriers
arrested so far were bound either for Nepal, via the city of
Siliguri by bus, or for Bihar and Uttar Pradesh by train. A

KOLKATA 00000264 002 OF 002


contact told post that women are reportedly being used as
carriers as the Seema Sasastra Bal (SSB -- guarding the
India-Nepal border) does not have women officers to conduct
search and detain women carriers. Although no processing
laboratories have been found, law enforcement contacts indicate
that the poppy produced in these areas are locally processed.

8. (SBU) Comment: The recent discovery of thousands of acres
of farmland under illicit poppy cultivation in West Bengal comes
as a surprise to local law enforcement and government officials.
Post has not been able to assess whether the reports of such
large areas of poppy cultivation are accurate but all sources
indicate a significant increase in illegal narcotic activity in
West Bengal and the number of recent arrests would appear to
substantiate the fact that illegal poppy cultivation is on the
rise in the state. In addition, much of the activity is
occurring along the porous India-Bangladesh border, where
smuggling and illegal cross-border movement is already
pervasive. Also, West Bengal's northern town of Siliguri, the
major urban center in the region, has been identified by the
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as a
significant transit point for narcotics smuggling, given its
serves as a transit point between East India, the Northeast,
Nepal, Bangladesh and the rest of India.
JARDINE

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