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India: Govt decision to promote cannabis farming harmful, say activists

Seema Sharma

Times of India

Thursday 22 Oct 2015

DEHRADUN: Protesting against the Uttarakhand government's recent decision to provide licences for farming of cannabis, which are used to make intoxicating 'bhaang', members of the Himalaya Bachao Andolan (HBA) are set to undertake a 300-km-long trek across the state from Sunday.

The activists say the decision is dangerous for the state as it will encourage its youth to get addicted to this drug. The 12-day walk, titled 'Dandi March', will start from Gopeshwar and conclude in Dehradun on November 7. The activists will also hold a fast in Gandhi Park on November 8.

HBA member Sameer Raturi told TOI, "The state government has approved the proposal to give licence for farming of cannabis. It plans to export this product and use it to manufacture bio-fabric material. However, there is no stringent regulation in place to ensure that the product is used only for these purposes and not as an intoxicant."

He added this loophole is bound to benefit the drug mafia which would exploit the situation.

Instead of promoting cannabis farming, Raturi said the state government should encourage farming of locally grown mandua, seeds of which are used by the Japanese in their baby food packets. "The state can set up its own baby food factories and promote the local product instead of cannabis."

Accusing the government of a conspiracy to strengthen the liquor and drug mafia in the state ahead of the 2017 assembly elections, the activist said, "Women in the hills are battling liquor addiction, but now they are being encouraged to take licences for operating liquor shops. The number of women applicants has gone up to 40% for such shops. We have to fight against this as it will damage our youth."

When contacted, Surender Aggarwal, media advisor to the chief minister, said, "Some people are still doing farming of cannabis. So, in a way, the state government will regulate its farming. The government is also intending to boost employment and revenue generation by connecting its production with cotton industries. We will definitely bring about measures to check misuse of cannabis."

However, noted environmentalist Anil Joshi said the government should have first found out the effect of cultivating cannabis on soil ecology before taking a decision. He added that a better idea would be to encourage orchard and vegetable farming in the hills.




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