In November 2010, a team of around 40 officials from CID and Himachal police raided the Malana village and other surrounding areas in the Parbati valley of Himachal Pradesh, arresting an Italian man in his sixties named Galeno Orazi in the process.
Orazi was arrested from a house in Nerang forest, where he had been staying for several years in direct violation of many legal norms. According to the police, his visa had expired a year before his arrest.
The house was stacked with large quantities of ganja (marijuana). Orazi, in every respect, looked like a native of Malana – with a long beard and wearing the traditional attire of the area.
For the 12-13 years that Orazi stayed in Malana, he was involved in the production and trade of cannabis with the active connivance of the village people, who find easy money in the production of illicit drugs.
The hill state, with its snow-capped mountains and clean air, has always been a preferred destination for the city dwellers.
Malana and Kasol have been preferred destinations for Israeli youth, who visit the place in huge numbers, after their mandatory service in the army, for a therapeutic experience.
However, the therapy is not provided by the peaceful environs of the mountains but with something for which Malana is now known the world over: Malana Cream, a local variety of hashish; a purified resinous extract of cannabis, highly valued in the international market.
Cannabis has always been grown in this area, but was meant for personal consumption and has great level of social acceptance. The local culture, which is guided to a great extent by belief in ‘devta’ (almost every village in Himachal has their own local deities and all major decisions are taken with their permission), treats cannabis as ‘shiv ji ki buti’ and does not see cannabis production as something wrong.
The problem, however, started with the commercialisation of the production and the entry of foreigners. The locals, who were attracted by the prospects of big money, started producing cannabis and trading it in connivance with the foreigners.
“Earlier, local varieties of cannabis were produced but now hybrid varieties are being grown with the help of foreigners. It is not for personal consumption, rather for trade.”
Regions that are indentified as important for the illicit cultivation of cannabis in Kullu include Malana and Manikaran, Tosh-kutla Regions, Banjar Valley, and the Sainj Valley in the Aani-Khanag Region. In Mandi district, areas where cannabis cultivation is widespread is Chauhar Bali Chowki (Thachi and Dider Jhamach), and the Gada Goshaini (Siraj Region) contiguous with Banjar Valley.
While the cases registered increased over the years, conviction rates under the NDPS act have been abysmally low. In 2005, the percentage of conviction of those arrested under the NDPS law was 32 percent, which fell to 28.20 percent in 2015.