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Cablegate: Local Farmers Paid for Illicit Poppy Cultivation in West

VZCZCXRO7463
PP RUEHBI RUEHCI
DE RUEHCI #0106 0881421
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 281421Z MAR 08
FM AMCONSUL KOLKATA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1943
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI PRIORITY 1824
RUEHCG/AMCONSUL CHENNAI 0845
RUEHBI/AMCONSUL MUMBAI 0850
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 0572
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 0562
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 0424
RUEABND/DEA HQ WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DC
RHMFIUU/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 2374

UNCLAS KOLKATA 000106

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR KCRM EAGR IN BG
SUBJECT: LOCAL FARMERS PAID FOR ILLICIT POPPY CULTIVATION IN WEST
BENGAL

1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Illicit cultivation of poppy has been
detected in a number of villages in West Bengal's North Dinajpur
district. An unidentified group or organization is offering
cash payments to farmers to grow illicit poppy. Poppy fields in
this district are fragmented small plots, hidden in vegetable or
rice paddy fields. The North Dinajpur incidents demonstrate
that despite a crackdown in 2007, illicit poppy cultivation is
continuing in West Bengal. The state's law enforcement
machinery is understaffed, lacks resources and is unable to stop
the illicit poppy cultivation. END SUMMARY.

2. (U) During the first week of February 2008, media reports
indicated that excise officers from West Bengal's North Dinajpur
district destroyed illicit poppy crop worth reportedly USD
350,000. The crop occupied a four-acre plot at Sayeedpur
village, under Karandighi Police Station, hidden within the
seasonal vegetables growing around the poppy. The value of
another lot, destroyed at nearby Itahar town, was reportedly USD
13,000. In the first week of March, poppy crop worth reportedly
USD 190,000 was destroyed at Gulandar and Titiha villages (also
near Itahar town), Bangabari village (near Islampur) and Begua
village of Karandighi. Speaking to Post's EconSpecialist the
Magistrate of North Dinajpur admitted the presence of illicit
poppy cultivation in his district and that the press reports of
the area of land under cultivation was fairly accurate but he
added that the values of the crop reported was too high.

3. (U) The cluster of villages growing illicit poppy are
located about 400 miles north of Kolkata. Law enforcement
officials are interrogating the growers. The Magistrate told
Post that better and assured returns are inducing farmers to
shift to illicit poppy cultivation. The local court has served
cautionary notice on the farmers but no one has been arrested.

4. (SBU) A West Bengal Excise Department official told post
that since early January 2008, his department was getting
information about the illicit poppy cultivation in North
Dinajpur. According to informants, the farmers were paid cash
advance to go in for poppy cultivation. People paying these
advances were "outsiders" although they worked through local
agents. The excise official said advances were paid from
"across the border." (Comment: This would mean either from
Bangladesh or Bihar as North Dinajpur is a narrow stretch
between the two. End Comment.) The excise official complained
of severe resource and manpower shortage and wanted to know if
the USG could provide assistance to his department.

5. (SBU) Local officials believe there could be opium and
heroin processing units in the neighborhood although no such
facility has been found. The Excise Department has found no
poppy harvest being taken out of the area. Moreover, on March
2, a Post contact confiscated 200 mg of opium from a person,
indicating the presence of the processed opium in the area.

6. (U) It appears that illicit poppy cultivation in West Bengal
is moving north, away from Nadia and Murshidabad districts.
According to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), about 13,000
acre in Nadia and 3,300 acre in Murshidabad districts were under
poppy cultivation in 2007. The NCB and the Criminal
Investigation Department destroyed poppy crop from nearly 10,000
acre, valued at USD 80 million, and arrested 200 people. The
Magistrate of Nadia told post that farmers in his district have
not cultivated poppy this year.

7. (SBU) COMMENT: Despite a crackdown in 2007, illicit poppy
cultivation continues in West Bengal. Two trends are visible.
The location is shifting towards the less crowded Northern
districts that also provide easier getaways through interstate
and international borders. Also, poppy fields are now smaller
in size, hidden amongst other legitimate crop. Enforcement
officials have not been able to identify the network providing
cash inducement to farmers for this illicit cultivation. In
North Dinajpur, the seizure and destruction of poppy crops was
done by the West Bengal government's Excise Department and not
by any Indian federal agency. Despite the best of intentions,
the state's Excise Department has no resources to effectively
control the poppy cultivation.

JARDINE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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