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Malana Fire a Setback For Narco Control

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CHANDIGARH: A "curse-caused" inferno has ravaged Himachal Pradesh's Malana village that produces the best quality cannabis in the world, which also learnt parliamentary democracy from the hilly hamlet in Kullu district. The fire, which has impoverished almost half the village, also threatens to destroy a serious effort to pull out the residents of the village from drug trade that is now part of their rich culture.

The fear of villagers taking to cultivating cannabis has galvanized concerned people to rehabilitate Malana residents, said OP Sharma, a former superintendent of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) at zonal office here. Sharma destroyed cannabis in the village four times consecutively in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Due to educational programmes and enforcement of law, around 70% of the residents had been pulled out of the narco-trade but the fear of their going back to the same business haunts everybody now, Sharma told The Times of India on Sunday.

The ex-official of NCB has got in touch with non-governmental organizations to chalk out a strategy to rehabilitate the villagers immediately and preserve their unique architecture and culture, hinged to Jamdagni Rishi's temples.
All the three temples of the Rishi have been destroyed by the fire that broke out Saturday morning, he said.

Additional SP of Kullu of district, Hardesh Bisht, agreed that the biggest challenge will be to prevent people from going back to bad old ways. This is why help is pouring in for the village from the government and non-government quarters, he said.

An NGO, Sain Engineering Foundation, has sent 400 blankets, one truckload of ration and Rs 12.6 lakh cash as help. Its chief executive officer Ravi Kumar Verma said the organization will adopt the village and train the locals in growing herbs so that they do not fall back upon cannabis in a time of crisis. Their culture is respected and unique and preserving it will bring a lot of dividends to the locals, he said.

Reports say Malana Power Company has also extended a help of Rs 20 lakh to villagers.

According to Sharma, herbs can easily replace drugs. In 2004, villagers sold Rs 15 lakh worth of herbs to pharma companies. These herbs were collected from the jungle. Potential is there, if an effort is made towards this end, he said. Sharma, along with the NGOs, have sent proposals to different international and national agencies to mobilize resources for rehabilitation of the people of this village.

Another NGO, Institute of Integrated Rural Development, associated with Hind Sewa Sanghathana, has sent two field officers to Malana to assess the situation, its director LC Sharma told TOI. The NGO will decide its role after the field officers submit their report in a couple of days, he added.

Source: The Times of India
Copyright: 2008, The Times of India
Contact: Sanjay Sharma
Website: Malana fire a setback for narco control-Chandigarh-Cities-The Times of India
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