Saturday, February 17, 2007

TV: on the charas trail

Television is often faulted for being superficial and in-the-moment. But that may be changing.

A CNN-IBN 'Special Investigation' I happened to see last night is one great example of how television can tell you a story like no other medium. Iram Mirza followed the 'charas trail' in Himachal Pradesh. Or hash/ ganja/ marijuana/cannabis - whatever you prefer to call it.

Posing as an Australian tourist, she takes a trip into the Parvati valley, where over 3000 acres of land is under 'cultivation'. Where hundreds of locals sit all day rolling charas in a Rs 600 crore trade controlled by Israeli and Italian mafia.

A decent quality hidden camera captured a lot of interesting insights into the trade. I guess I found it all the more intriguing because I've been fascinated by this whole Israelis-in-India phenomenon for a while.

After sealing a deal to buy 40 kgs of charas for Rs 18 lakhs - and capturing it all on tape - Iram and team scooted off. Apparently pictures of her were then circulated around the valley to warn everyone about the 'journalist on the prowl'.

It will be some time before anyone 'Indian looking' is admitted into these psudo-spiritual drug communes. Which is probably just as well - for both the hippie crowd and the locals. Because as long as 'they' keep to themselves - as in Goa, where they populate distant beaches - the police and local officials will accept bribes and turn a blind eye to the activity.

Besides, both Himachal and Goa need these tourists.

In any case, cannabis is not cocaine - there are different points of view on its usage. While most countries still classify it as a drug, it's legal in Amsterdam. Which is where much of the stuff is headed.

Given that a gram of charas which costs Rs 25 to produce in Himachal sells for Rs 3000 in Holland, nothing is likely to change. A couple of fields will be burnt to show 'some action' has been taken while the acres and acres continue to flourish in the distant, upper reaches.

Still, it was a a fascinating peek into a hidden world. And I now know India is famous not just for its Darjeeling tea and basmati rice, but 'Malana cream'...

Here's looking to more stories - from all news channels - which go beyond the moment. Resources are hardly a problem for most of these publicly listed companies. It's about giving enough time - and a mandate - to your reporters.


  1. Recently, NDTV has a very good series titled 'Republic of Hunger', reporting on the govt subsidized aanganwadis, tracking one particular child of migrant parents, to see if he received care in the free aanganwadis etc. I thought it was a good and sincere to see more such series and follow ups on them..

  2. Hi RASHMI,

    Yes, It seems to be more job orienting for the all class of people, but mostly the middle and lower class, the charas and ganja's are all naturl things produced an given by nature. It's both have advantage and disadvantage. The two theing can be also used for medicine and drug. Most of the people not in himalyas but in maharashtra, at shyadari part also aultivat e the same for which we are unware, of it. The indian sadhus know it very well of it. The most of the smuggler are sadhus only, which we people ignore it.
    From thetrade point of view, it is a cash crop which can be done under survey of GOI(Govt. of India) and can be sold in foreign market which may keep indain economy in certain percentage a strong. As in the way of cultivtion it dosent need any pesticide of insectiticed.which is suitbale for poor farmer.
    A famer from a lower class can improve her standard of living. But if a Right person if appointed to take care for person and price.

  3. Drugs don't surprise me these days. The basic stuff - whatever's required to roll a joint, i dont know - is aailable *wayyyy* too easily.

    Its the darker side of youth today, and people aren't willing to admit it yet.

  4. I could hardly call it the dark side, but it's a pity that the next time you're there, getting a drag would be mighty difficult. :)

    Somehow, I think that to get 40 kg, the peddler who she must have approached, would have had to go quite high up the chain. And he must have paid the price, now that she didn't.

    I always have a feeling that the journalists are not really like the rest of us. Especially the ones conducting such sting operations.

    How else can one go with the sole incentive of cheating someone after you get them to trust you, and then you get paid for it too.

    Though some good must have come out of it, just because I can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there.

  5. interesting read...

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