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Overcrowding in prisons, due to ganja seizures

Malkangiri, the southernmost district of Odisha, is overflowing with prisoners due to arrests of those involved in large-scale cultivation and subsequent transportation of cannabis. Approximately 90% of under-trial prisoners (UTPs) lodged in the jails of Malkangiri district and Jeypore in Koraput has been detected in possession of commercial quantities of ganja.

Since the provisions of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985 are so stringent, many offenders struggle to secure bail. In Malkangiri jail, the number of prisoners was found to be 818 – 260% of the capacity – by October 31, despite a capacity of 314 inmates. Under the jurisdiction of the Jeypore Town Police station in Koraput district, the highest volume of ganja consignments has been tracked among police stations in the country. Over 25,000 kilograms of ganja, worth over 25 crores, were seized in 60 hauls in Jeypore during the past year.

According to senior police officers, the trial process for those charged under the NDPS Act is an arduous one, so UTPs are jailed for a longer period. ‘In Koraput, prior to October 31, 2021, against a scheduled accommodation of 739, the prison population was 737. It then became 904 and this included 167 convicts and 737 UTPs,’ prison authorities said. According to the report, by December 15, 2021, there were 869 UTPs in Koraput, primarily due to the transfer of UTPs from the Malkangiri sub-jail, which was overcrowded at the time.

According to Anshuman Dwibedi, the Sub-Divisional Police Officer posted in Malkangiri, ‘when a person is arrested under the NDPS Act, we submit a charge sheet within six months’. As large quantities of ganja are seized from smugglers, the offence is considered grave. Similarly, hemp plants grown on 4500 acres of land have been destroyed during the past three months. It is estimated that illicit cannabis plants are worth $675 crore.


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