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Last Updated: Monday, 23 October 2006, 12:00 GMT 13:00 UK
Rajasthan farmers face opium ban
By Narayan Bareth
BBC News, Jaipur

Opium poppy
A poppy cut for producing opium
More than 7,000 farmers in the Indian state of Rajasthan have been banned from cultivating poppies used for the legal production of opium.

Officials said they were growing poppies of inferior quality.

There are 35,000 opium farmers in this western state which produced 206 tonnes of the drug last year, say officials.

India is the largest legitimate producer of opium in the world and the drug is exported as well as used by the domestic pharmaceutical industry.

'Anti-farmer'

A senior official in the Indian Narcotics Control Bureau, Mayank Kumar, said the licences of 7,400 cultivators had been cancelled because of problems with their poppies.

Opium cultivation is allowed in Chittorgarh, Bhilwara, Jhalawar, Kota, Udaipur and Baran districts of the state.

Some leaders of the state's governing Bharatiya Janata Party have accused the federal government, led by the Congress Party, of formulating policies which are anti-farmer.

Shrichand Kriplani, a BJP member of Parliament from Chittorgarh district, says the party will oppose the decision.

But other lawmakers are demanding a ban on opium cultivation in Rajasthan as they say it is creating opium addicts.

Narayan Singh Manaklav, a member of the upper house of Indian Parliament, says addiction is a problem because opium is easily available.

Opium field
India is the largest legal producer of opium in the world

Mr Manaklav has been organising camps to treat addicts since 1987 and has won an government award for his campaign.

He said more than 100,000 people have benefited from the camps but opium cultivation should be banned.

India produces about half the opium utilized by the world's pharmaceutical industries to produce codeine, morphine, narcotine, thebaine, papaverine, and other medical products.

Some is available in government-licensed shops.

According to the UN office on drug control, close to 80,000 farmers were licensed to cultivate opium in India last year and they produced 439 tonnes of the drug.

Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh are the other main states where poppies for opium are grown legally.

Good quality

Opium is grown in the three states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and the cultivation is tightly regulated and controlled by the government.

Indian opium is of exceptionally good quality and is much coveted in the international market.

The federal government announces an opium policy every year which sets out the terms and conditions subject to which licenses for the cultivation are given out to individual growers, the areas where cultivation will be allowed, the prices at which the crop will be purchased by the government and the minimum qualifying yield for a license in the next crop year.

However, there have been concerns about "leakage" to the illicit drug trade.

The plant is not indigenous to India and according to the United Nations, the drug was introduced in India in 330 BC by Alexander the Great.

The opiate has been used in traditional Indian medicine to cure diarrhoea and sexual disorders.

The drug has also traditionally been administered in small quantities to pacify upset babies and put them to sleep.


SEE ALSO
UN report flags up India drug use
23 May 06 |  South Asia
Crackdown on India's poppy crop
25 Mar 05 |  South Asia
Addictive-free poppy seed developed
21 Dec 99 |  South Asia

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