Police arrested two persons, including a woman, with two kilograms opium from Thamel, Kathmandu Metropolitan City, yesterday. The arrested have been identified as Dhanmaya Pun, 41, of East Rukum and Rudra Rana, 37, of Rupandehi.

Acting on a tip-off, cops deployed from Metropolitan Police Circle, Lainchaur, swung into action and held them with the highly addictive non-synthetic narcotic. A police official said they were searching for foreign customers in Kathmandu.

They had smuggled opium to the capital city from East Rukum, where it is grown. Pure raw opium like the one seized by the police comes at a price ranging from Rs 200,00 to Rs 250,000 in the illegal drug market of Nepal, according to police. Kathmandu District Court has remanded Pun and Rana to seven-day police custody for further investigation into drug trafficking and trading.

Opium cultivation is illegal in Nepal.

However, people in rural areas are still engaged in the cultivating the drug. The cultivation of opium plants has been rampant in many parts of the high hilly region in recent years, mainly in Makawanpur, Dhading, Baglung, Salyan, Jajarkot, Rolpa, East Rukum and West Rukum.

Raw opium is also converted into brown sugar through chemical reaction in laboratories. "However, due to lack of knowledge of use of chemicals, opium is mostly sold raw in the country," said the official.

As per a report of the Narcotic Drugs Bureau, remoteness and economic backwardness of people living in rural areas are the major factors behind the illicit cultivation of opium.

Due to lack of proper observation, it has become a herculean task for police to control opium cultivation.

Opium is the dried latex obtained from a poppy plant, which contains morphine.

A version of this article appears in the print on September 13 2021, of The Himalayan Times.