The South Indian city of
Bangalore may be a burgeoning high tech center, but it's a different world
for farmers out in the province, where payasam, or rice pudding topped
with opium poppy, is a favored dish. Farmers there have been growing
opium for years, apparently oblivious to laws banning poppy-growing except
under license for medical purposes. But that has changed in recent
months as police, apparently spurred by mention of the practice in the
International Narcotics Control
Board's latest annual report, have cracked down, arresting 20 farmers
last month and seizing unspecified quantities of opium.
The farmers aren't happy
and are planning protests later this month, according to a report in the
Times of India. They have also apparently convinced Indian authorities
they really did not know their crops were illegal and are seeking to win
licenses for legal poppy cultivation.
incised papaver specimens (opium poppies
"The farmers will be set
free if they prove they are innocent. I admit they were not aware
of the ban. Now, we have distributed literature on the crime of cultivation
of opium poppy," said state agriculture minister K. Srinivasa Gowda.
Still, the eradication drive would continue unless and until the national
government responds to his request for licensed poppy cultivation, he said.
"In states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh, the government
has issued licenses for poppy only for medicinal applications. I
have requested Mr. Sharad Pawar (the agriculture minister) to use his good
offices to get similar licences to our farmers."
In the meantime, farmers
are grumbling. "We want the government to withdraw cases against
farmers and set them free," said K. Puttanaiah, president of the Karnataka
State Farmers Association, which called the planned protest rally.
"Will the government imprison farmers who grow sugarcane or tobacco because
one can make rectified spirit and cigarettes? This coalition government
has no inkling of agricultural practices or problems of farmers," he added.
Some farmers have fled to
avoid prison sentences of up to 10 years. "My husband did not know
this crop is illegal. The person who gave us the seeds said it was
for medicinal plants. I have not slept after the police raided our
farm (in March)," said Savithramma, 46, whose husband A. Krishnappa fled
as soon as he heard about the raids.
-- END --
Mail this article to a friend
Send us feedback on this article
This issue -- main page
This issue -- single-file printer version
Drug War Chronicle -- main page
PERMISSION to reprint or
redistribute any or all of the contents of Drug War Chronicle (formerly The Week Online with DRCNet is hereby
granted. We ask that any use of these materials include proper credit and,
where appropriate, a link to one or more of our web sites. If your
publication customarily pays for publication, DRCNet requests checks
payable to the organization. If your publication does not pay for
materials, you are free to use the materials gratis. In all cases, we
request notification for our records, including physical copies where
material has appeared in print. Contact: StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network,
P.O. Box 18402, Washington, DC 20036, (202) 293-8340 (voice), (202)
293-8344 (fax), e-mail [email protected]. Thank
Articles of a purely
educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of the DRCNet
Foundation, unless otherwise noted.