That ganja is sold, bought and smoked freely in this city has stopped raising eyebrows, as any other college student is likely to testify, anonymously. But a vast swathe of land by the river nurturing a flourishing marijuana farm hit cops as a hard surprise.
Potbed: The 300 plants, found growing by the Mula-Mutha river in Kharadi, could have produced 64 kg of weed, which would have traded for Rs 5.5 lakh
Leaving them even more wide-eyed is the fact that the plot on which the pot was brewing — before they weeded it all out — belongs to the state government’s irrigation department.
Trip that led to the discovery: Interrogation of arrested peddlers Sooraj Atole (in red) and Nitin Adagale led the officials to the riverside plantation; (below) ANC Inspector Sunil Tambe. Pics/Mohan Patil
The cops believe that nobody deliberately planted the cannabis, and claim it grew on its own. They are, however, investigating into the possibilities.
Officials yesterday destroyed the foliage, whose value they estimated to be roughly Rs 5.5.lakh.
Interrogation of two drug peddlers by the Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC) led to the discovery of the two-acre open plot of land along the Mula-Mutha in Kharadi, where 300 cannabis plants were found growing merrily. The plot is located behind the EON IT Park campus.
The find exposes the utter apathy exhibited by the government officials in protecting their own land and open spaces, from encroachers or possible abuse.
The peddlers were identified as Sooraj Vilas Atole (19) and Nitin Mukund Adagale (22), both residents of Mundhwa. While Atole works as a labourer, Adagale does painting jobs at construction sites. Though the duo lacks criminal record, they are involved in selling marijuana collected from the riverbanks in the city for the last two years.
Atole and Adagale were arrested at Mundhwa chowk on February 13 and the ANC officials recovered 1.7 kg of marijuana and a motorcycle from their possession.
They were produced in the court of judicial magistrate (first class), which remanded them in police custody till February 20 (today). During interrogation, the duo revealed to the police that they had ‘found a lot of cannabis plants along the banks’ of the Mula-Mutha.
Police officials said that they destroyed all the plants on the spot and surveyed the vicinity as well. ANC Inspector Sunil Tambe said, “Nearly 64 kg of marijuana, worth Rs 5.5 lakh, could have been extracted from the 300 plants.
We thoroughly inspected the nearby areas and checked whether anyone had planted cannabis seeds. But nothing suspicious was found. Since the open space belongs to the irrigation department, we asked them to clear that area.”
He added, “The government departments should take precautions at such places and ensure that plants like marijuana do not grow. To prevent incidents like this in future, they should at least conduct checks every six months.”
He further said that they would be approaching court to seek extension of the arrested duo’s custody, which ends today.
“We need to find out how the two discovered this spot and if they have any more accomplices,” Tambe said.
The amount of marijuana which could have been extracted from the plants
Rs 5.5 lakh
The collective worth of the plants, which were destroyed by the cops