GAIGHAT/SIRAHA: Minister for Local Development Purna Kumar Sherma, who had come to inspect the rural roads, was stunned to see the cannabis plantation all over the villages in western Udayapur

A member of the inspection team told him. "No crop other than the cannabis can be produced here, so the villagers have been growing cannabis for years. If they are not allowed to produce cannabis in the fields, they will starve to death."

Nearly 7,000 people live in Okhle VDC in the western Udayapur. The locals have been producing cannabis as a major crop. A local teacher said," The locals have been producing cannabis since the Panchayat era. The villagers produce it in collaboration with the police administration."

Almost every family in the area has been involved in cannabis farming as it can be grown easily. The teacher added that the locals even produce cannabis by hiring the unused land from other villagers. Though there is no exact record, it is estimated that the total transaction of the banned product exceeds Rs 5 million each year. The cannabis produced here is illegally supplied to Jayanagar in India via Kamala Gorge bordering Udayapur and Sindhuli districts.

Besides Okhle, the cannabis farming is also done in the VDCs like Limpatar, Rupatar, Thanagaun, Lekhgaun, Hardeni and Iname in Udayapur.

Manoj Yadav, DSP in Udayapur, said the cannabis crop will be destroyed soon.

In Siraha as well, cops destroy ripe cannabis every year. Nepal Police and Armed Police Forces personnel in Siraha began destroying cannabis crop early in December. They have already destroyed cannabis grown over four bighas of land in Siraha. A kilo of cannabis is sold for Rs 1,500 in Nepal but if taken to India, it can fetch INR 5,000 per kg. If the farmers are able to protect the cannabis grown in a kattha of land, they can earn as much as Rs 1 lakh. Tarai region is considered best in the world for quality cannabis produce.

As per the legal provisions, a farmer who produces cannabis in his filed can face punishment from three to 10 years in prison. But no one has been punished yet.

Each year the police destroy the cannabis plants in the field and the farmers again plant it the following year. The farmers grow the cannabis along with the sugarcane and pigeon peas to hide it from the police. The farmers in Dharampur, Bheriya, Bastipur, Chikna and Jamdaha of Siraha also produce cannabis.

Birendra Yadav, CDO in Siraha, said farmers produced cannabis despite punishment threat. SP Ramesh Bhattarai said last week cops destroyed cannabis grown over 35 katthas in Dharampur and 15 katthas in Keriya.