On October 26, left-wing propaganda website Scroll published an article titled ‘In Tripura, a crackdown on cannabis cultivation leaves hundreds without livelihood’.
The article says that in the Sonamura area in the Sipahijala district in Tripura, people were carrying out illegal cannabis cultivation since decades. And now due to the massive crackdown on this practice by BJP’s Biplab Deb government, the economy of the area has been wrecked and farmers have become jobless.
This is a shocking stand taken by the website on the issue. The article actually criticises the current BJP government for actually enforcing the law, indicating that the illegal activity should have been allowed to be continued. The article contains testimonial of several people who are affected by the crackdown on the practice, and it has tried to portray that the state government has done a grave injustice to them.
Although the facts mentioned in the report is correct, the stand taken in it is unacceptable. Yes, when government implement something which is already illegal under the law, the people practising that activity will definitely be affected. Cannabis was not banned by Biplab Dev government. The substance, including its cultivation, is banned for a long time under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. Moreover, India is also a signatory to the United Nation’s Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961. Both of these prohibits growing cannabis for any reason other than industrial purposes.
Therefore, it is the responsibility of every elected government to respect the law and not allow something which has been declared illegal. Yes, there is a debate going on for legalising it for medicinal and personal uses, but it is still banned in most countries across the world. Although few countries and few states in the USA have legalised it, it still banned in India, along with most other countries.
While Scroll criticises the current government in Tripura for carrying out its duty, it forgets to criticise the real culprit. The cannabis cultivation was going on in the region for several decades when the state was ruled by Communist and Congress governments. It was the responsibility of past governments to stop this illegal activity before it became so large scale and provide the farmers with alternative livelihood options. But they chose to take the easy way and allowed the activity to go on. Bolstered by such ‘encouragement’ from the administration, more and more farmers started cultivating cannabis, as it is more profitable compared to conventional crop.
There are many areas in the country where a lot of people are engaged in some illegal trade. Some areas produce illicit liquor, some areas harbour organised gangs, people in many border areas do smuggling, etc. Now if the government of the land takes strict action against such activities, the livelihood of those people will be definitely affected. But that can’t be an excuse for allowing the illegal practices to continue.
Before assembly elections, BJP had promised to make Tripura ‘nasha mukt’ (addiction free), and this crackdown is part of fulfilling that promise. The state government has already started programs to support farmers who used to grow cannabis, which include providing skill development training, supporting them to switch to other crops etc.