Manali Drug Traffickers: Growing Menace
by Harish Thakur on 07 Aug 2008 9 Comments

Like Goa, Delhi and Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh has also turned into a major attraction for foreign tourists. Sadly, far more than its outstanding geography, people and culture, the tourist influx reveals a deadly narcotic nexus. An increasing number of localities are falling prey to this business and addiction.


Allan D’Sa, Deputy Superintendent of Police and Anti-Narcotics Chief of Goa, admitted on the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, that “Goa has become a transit point for all the drug peddlers and from here drugs like charas, hashish and ganja are being pushed and ecstasy, LSD and cocaine come here from western countries.” He said drugs entering Goa are mostly from Rajasthan and Kullu Manali, besides Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nepal.


In Himachal Pradesh the growing narcotics menace has overwhelmed a good number of youth in Kullu, Manali, Mandi and Shimla. The narcotics trade is assuming horrific shape in Kullu where a large numbers of tourists, mostly Israelis, pour in every year. Nearly 50,000 foreigners visit Himachal Pradesh annually, and their movement in different parts of the state, such as Shimla, Kullu, Manali, Dharamshala and other parts of the country promotes narcotics proliferation. This has inspired local farmers to clandestinely cultivate illegal poppy or cannabis crops to earn quick bucks. Besides marginal villages of Kullu, the malaise has spread to areas of Chuhar valley of Mandi district where people have abandoned cultivating other crops for easier earnings.


The Soviet intrusion of Afghanistan and consequent settlement of displaced Afghans in Kullu led to the first planned narcotic business in trade and cultivation, though cannabis and poppy were not entirely unknown to the area. The Afghan settlers for climatic reasons preferred Kullu–Manali and gradually developed links with local youth and soon heralded the era of smack, heroine and brown sugar. First offering puffs free and then charging the new addicts, the business became quite lucrative and evolved.


Kullu valley, thanks to the illegal cultivation of opium, has undergone a morbid transformation, becoming a haven for drug peddlers who freely traffic cocaine, brown sugar, smack, and other narcotics. What is most alarming today is that the peddlers, besides foreigners, chose soft targets like young school children and collegiates.


They primarily target the Government Senior Secondary Schools and high schools at Manali, Kullu, Mohal, Bajaura, Bhuntar, Katrain and Banjar. There are stray cases of addiction in different schools in Mandi, Dharamshala, Shimla, Solan and other parts of the state. Often, visible in the debris near schools and colleges are used silver foils, cigarette butts and sticks used for taking brown sugar and smack. The drugs are easily available at Akhara Bazar, Durganagar, lower Dhalpur, Upper Sultanpur and Shishamati. In Shimla Tutu, Sanjauli and Summer Hill are major centres of drug supply. Medicines like Alprazomen, Engzit and Axinil are available without prescriptions at Kullu, Bhuntar, Manali and other places.


Israel connection


Israeli monopolization of the trade is visible from the fact that people of Kasol village in Kullu have learnt to speak Hebrew! Clearly Hebrew is all about money...pots of it, all illegal. Heady cannabis has struck deep roots after 3000 Israelis made the village their home. Apart from Israelis, people flock from Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Holland frequently for cannabis. “Every year the area under cannabis cultivation has been increasing, thanks to the patronage of foreigners,” a senior police official revealed. “One set of foreigners gets hybrid cannabis seeds, and another set resides here and monitors the cultivation through local folks. The produce is then smuggled out by villagers to Delhi, Mumbai and Goa to be shipped abroad. The new inhabitants have rechristened their habitats. For instance, the valley next to Malana, about 15 km from here, is called Magic Valley, the neighbouring valley is called the Waichin Valley.” The valleys have virtually become homelands for foreigners. They not only stay for years, but also marry local girls and settle down.” Foreigners have made Kullu’s Kasol a cannabis base.


An Israeli revealed some interesting facts about the trade. Kutla, a remote village in Parvati Valley approached vide Manikaran, is the hub of charas cultivation. Police has little access here and people work fearlessly. Foreigners hire one acre of land for just Rs. 10,000/- and raise about 40 kg of charas. Cheap Nepali labour makes things easy as villages like Malana, Kasol, Tosh compete for higher production.


The drug mafia has “headline fields” which can be sacrificed if the police arrive. But fields in the high mountains are left untouched and production thrives. The trade here is mostly controlled by drug cartels from Israel and Italy. About 90% of the Rs. 900-crore trade is controlled by foreigners. Police protection is secured – at a price. For good charas people trust Italians more and a gram of Kullu charas that costs about Rs. 25 locally can fetch as much as Rs. 3000/- in Holland.


According to a State Narcotics Report, over 3000 acres of mountain land in Himachal is under illegal cannabis cultivation, run by the Italian and Israeli Mafia by remote control. Himachal Pradesh Narcotic Officer O.P. Sharma said “communication is so advanced that they are remote controlling it. They have taught locals so they are not required on how to pack etc.”      


Data on Narcotics Seizures in HP


Cases regd

Charas seized (Kg.)

Opium seized (Kg.)

Poppy-husk (Kg.)

Brown sugar (gms)


seized (gms)











































Source: CID Report: Department of Police, Published in Amar Ujala, 21-08-2008


Kullu Manali’s narco-nexus with foreign cartels becomes more visible when foreign nationals nabbed from the capital reveal the course and mode of supplies. For the past several years, Delhi has been one of the major transit points for domestic and international drug traffickers, especially Nigerian nationals.


Japan too


However, two back-to-back arrests of Japanese nationals in the mid-November 2007 on charges of smuggling hashish brought new facts to light. The first Japanese national, arrested at the Indira Gandhi International Airport while trying to smuggle out 1.2 kg of hashish in his undergarments, was about to board a flight to Bangkok. Within four days, another Japanese national, whose wife was still residing in Manali, was arrested from a Connaught Place hotel after being found in possession of hashish. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Narcotics Branch) D.L. Kashyap said police and other anti-narcotics agencies have arrested Nigerians, Israelis and people from European countries in the past, but the fact that Japanese nationals were also initiated into this trade was a new development.


The arrest of five young Uzbekistan women from Chadiyar village after they checked out from Ambassador Resorts on 26 January 2007 without passports, valid visas and other documents, showed that foreigners can enter Himachal Pradesh with impunity. It is emerging as a safe refuge for criminals.


A distressing development is the continuous pressure from Punjab and Himachal and other states to allow limited farming of cannabis and opium. The government of Punjab is in the wholesale cannabis business. The state government sells bhang, an intoxicating preparation made from the leaves and flowers of marijuana, known locally as sukha. Himachal Government is thinking the same way.


The author teaches political science in Shimla

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