210-year-old history of Uttarakhand’s Self Employment related to Commercial Cannabis Cultivation
“Lack of coordination between departments and agencies regarding the cultivation of industrial hemp”
Uttarakhand is the first state in the country to commercialize the cultivation of industrial hemp by providing licenses for cosmetic and pharmaceutical purposes. However, on the other hand, there is no clear information available regarding the procurement of hemp seeds with a low level of THC (Tetra Hydra Cannabinol).
“Since the 1910 British era, there has been a provision for lawful commercial cultivation of cannabis for fiber and spices in the hilly areas of Almora and Garhwal districts (present-day Pauri, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Bageshwar, Pithoragarh).”
Various agencies in the state have been talking about commencing commercial cultivation of cannabis in the last two years. However, there exists a lack of availability of low THCC seeds for local farmers indicating that the government and its Agricultural universities, research institutes like NBPGR, State Biodiversity Board, Excise Department, Bharsar Agricultural University, GB Pant Agricultural University have not been able to successfully distribute the seeds with low-level THC.
At present, there are two agencies in Uttarakhand that are actively engaged in initial experiments in Pauri district and GB Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment Development Kosi Katarmall in the state. They have licenses for only scientific farming. The Uttarakhand Bamboo and fiber Development Council, Department of Industries, Uttarakhand Handicraft and Handloom Development Council are also working with NGO’s, social development organizations and start-up projects to develop self-employment in the state. But there is an evident lack of planning and policy coordination in these different state agencies.
“In olden times shoes, slippers, and other footwear were not commonly used. In those days, several people traded livestock including sheep and goats along with vegetables like spinach with Tibet. These traders used to wear shoes made of sheepskin with a hemp wrapping. Such shoes not only helped to keep the feet warm but also prevented them from sliding in the snow.”
The government will help in the promotion and cultivation of natural fiber in the state. At the district level, collection centers will be set up at the cluster level for the purchase of natural fibers such as dance candali, bhimal, flax, bhabar grass and hemp fibers. In a state level meeting held at the Bijapur guest house, the Chief Minister informed that a committee shall be set up to formulate a Minimum Support Price mechanism for the purchase of all types of fibers from farmers.
During this meeting, social organizations of the state expressed their desire for the government to take concrete steps to provide natural fiber-based self-employment in remote rural areas.
The Uttarakhand Bamboo and Fiber Development Council and Uttarakhand Handloom and Handicrafts Development Council will provide complete support to government and non-government organizations that are already working in production and marketing of products related to natural fiber.
It is noteworthy that in the hill areas, prior to 1910 since the British era, there exists a provision of permission for commercial cultivation of hemp for fiber and spices in Almora and Garhwal districts (present-day Pauri, Chamoli, Rudraprayag, Bageshwar, Pithoragarh) in the law.
In olden times shoes, slippers, and other footwear were not commonly used. In those days, several people traded livestock including sheep and goats along with vegetables like spinach with Tibet. These traders used to wear shoes made of sheep skin with a hemp wrapping. Such shoes not only helped to keep the feet warm but also prevented them from sliding in the snow. Also, bags made of hemp fiber were commonly used for carrying goods on sheep back in those days.
“There are records of large-scale cannabis cultivation in Garhwal in areas of high altitude of 4000 to 7000 feet. These places include Badhan, Lohba, Chandkot, Chandpur, Dhanpur, and Devalgarh.”
Archaic historical documents also provide details regarding the local resources of Uttarakhand along with details regarding natural resources like traditional crops, natural fibers like dance candali, cannabis and other fibers. These details can be found in The Gazetteer of Garhwal Himalaya.
In the 1910 edition of the British Garhwal Gazetteer, writer H.G. Walton mentions the cultivation of hemp by the lower class tribes of Khasia-Pabilas in Chandpur.
Hemp is cultivated in the fertile fields near the village. Initially they used to cut down forests for cannabis cultivation. However, this tradition was later discouraged due to the extensive damage it caused to the forests.
Green stems of hemp are cut and dried in the sun. Hemp bundles are then dipped into water and soaked for about fifteen-sixteen days.
Later, these bundles are thrashed with a wooden mace and then left to dry in sun light. The next step is to remove their fibers (tallow). The fibers are stripped starting from the broader end. Thereafter its pulp is crushed to create bundles or packages that can be sold easily.
These hemp bundles are used to produce a variety of fabric known as Bhangela. People of Chandpur usually use this fabric to create clothing or to make bags. The fabric is also sold outside on the Kotdwar and Ramnagar route.
The Gazetteer of Garhwal Himalaya also mentions that the Bhotia people also wore clothes made of hemp and wool.
There are also records of domestic sale of blankets and hemp fiber. Since more tthan 150 years, trade of natural hemp fiber has been taking place along with the trade of ghee, in the hill districts of Uttarakhand.
In 1881, the great historian and lover of the Himalays, Irish researcher Edwin Thomas Atkinson, wrote an article in ‘The Himalayan Gazetteer’ elucidating the prevalent custom of cultivation of cannabis in Uttarakhand. He also wrote that the cannabis indica species has different male and female plants. The male plant is called flower cannabis and the female plant is called Gur cannabis. ‘
He also wrote, ” Cannabis fibers are produced from the upper skin of long round stalks of cannabis. They may grow up to 3 to 14 feet in length in a single year. These fine fibers are covered with skin called cuticle. Cannabis fibers are mostly obtained from the male plant, while less fiber is obtained from the female plant. On the other hand, the female plant produces the seeds and intoxicants. These seeds are used to extract hemp oil and for making spices. The fibers produced from the male plant are called Bhangela. Cannabis fibers are used in making ropes that are utilized in producing bags, sacks, and bridges. They are also locally known as ganara-hemp, banab hemp,and wild hemp. It is grown in the north-eastern areas of the Himalayas.”
“In the Garhwal area, farmers who cultivated cannabis faced social disrespect. And it was considered rude to say ‘May cannabis grow in your homeland.’ But, on the other hand, people of Khasia caste were not worried about social disgrace and they continued to cultivate cannabis. They would weave the hemp fiber to make ropes for domestic use.”
Atkinson’s article also mentions the writings of Dr. Roxburgh who believed that there is a possibility of cannabis being cultivated in these areas even prior to the year 1800. Dr. Roxburgh’s writings mention that experts on cannabis cultivation were brought from Europe to Moradabad and Gorakhpur districts to promote cannabis cultivation in the region.
For several years, the East India Company continued to earn a large part of its revenues from the cannabis grown in the Kumaon hills. In later years, the demand for hemp-based fabrics was limited to local areas due to the abolition of the East India Company and the subsequent boycott of British goods.
Apart from this, Huddle Stone and Betans have also written important details regarding hemp cultivation in the Himalayan region. They provided details regarding the large-scale cultivation of cannabis cultivation in eastern Garhwal regions with altitude of approximately 4000 ft to 7000 ft. including places likeBadhan, Lohba, Chandkot, Chandpur, Dhanpur, and Devalgarh to name a few.
These areas were perfectly suited for hemp cultivation owing to the extensive forest boundaries, dense forests and uniform temperatures. But those regions in the northern direction that were closer to the snowy peaks of the Himalayas had very little hemp cultivation. Hence, it can be concluded that the most favorable area for cannabis cultivation in Garhwal was located between Pinder in the north and Nayar in the south, as well as between Western Ramganga in the east and the Ganges River in the west.
In those times, about 20 to 25 molds or 52 to 66 pounds of hemp seeds may have been sown per 1 bissi / biswa ground (1 bissi equals 45 square yards).
The clearing of the land for hemp cultivation and sowing of the seeds would take place in the months of May-June. The Himalayan Gazetteer provides records of cannabis cultivation dating more than 210 years ago. These documents provide elaborate details regarding the methods of cultivation of cannabis, the process of cutting, filament extraction and making cloth with heavy thickness. It is also believed that the poor people wore hemp clothing even during the summer.
Hemp cultivation has been taking place in the Kumaon, especially in Lakhanpur, Darun, Rangaur and Salam Patti. The Gangolihat’s Baraun Assi Chalissi, Uchure, Gumdesh, Dhyanirao and Malla Chankot provide extensive information on hemp cultivation.
Atkinson also writes that in the Garhwal area, farmers who cultivated cannabis faced social disrespect. And it was considered rude to say ‘May cannabis grow in your home land.’ But, on the other hand, people of Khasia caste were not worried about social disgrace and they continued to cultivate cannabis. They would weave the hemp fiber to make ropes for domestic use. They would also use hemp fiber to make bags. These bags were woven by people of scheduled tribes like the Koli, Bora and Aagri. On the other hand, people from all castes and communities carried on hemp trading without any social apprehension.
“The plants with fully developed flowers and seeds are harvested in October. Their stalks are dried for 8 to 10 days in strong sunlight. Later those bundles are soaked in running water for three days. On the fourth day the outer skin is removed, washed properly and left to dry. Each outer skin is finely peeled and separated by the nails of the hand. It is then twisted to form a spindle (tikuli).”
Atkinson writes that Dr. Rutherford had an agreement with the East India Company for the hemp fiber. Around this time cannabis-based entrepreneurship may have started in Uttarakhand with the help of Head of the village.
Around the year 1840, trading of hemp fiber and its products amounted to a turn over of about Rs.1000/-. Captain Huddlestone estimated that around 40 tonnes of hemp was produced in approximated 250 acres of land in the Garhwal region.
In this era hemp seeds were used for food consumption some areas.
In 1814, the price of one maund (320 lb) of hemp seeds was about Rs. 3. It later increased to Rs. 4. People used to buy hemp fiber to suit their use and requirements.
Bhangela or hemp cloth was used as a seat or to make bags from kotla (thick cloth). The finer threads of hemp were used to make bags to carru flour and limestone powder. In 1840, these bags were sold for 6 annas and for 12 annas in 1881. By the year 1840 small size bags were worth Rs 2 per dozen.
These bags were used to sell potatoes in Kotdwar and Ramnagar, leading to a constant rise in demand for the hemp cloth bags. As the traders began to take undue advantage of the rising demand, the bags made of hemp cloth soon became quite expensive.
Mr. J.H. Baton has written in his report titled ‘Prospects of Cannabis cultivation in Kumaon’ hemp fiber should be purchased from Kumaon’s Chagarkha Pargana and from those families that are cultivating hemp in Kumaon instead of European sources. He encouraged buyers to go to Kumaon and buy land there to support cannabis cultivation for entrepreneurship development.
He stressed that, “I understand that when any family is benfited from employment in hemp cultivation and related industry an improvement in their standard of living takes place. As a result, other members of the society of Uttarakhand will follow them. Eventually, the entire land of Kumaon and Garhwal which is currently unutilized and useless will be gradually used for cannabis cultivation.”
Cannabis cultivation in Nepal- During this period hemp was also cultivated in the northern pargana of Nepal. Mr. B.H. Hagsan has written that in Nepal sowing of hemp seeds takes place in March-April. A sufficient amount of cow dung is applied to the farm land.
Later hemp seeds are sown by spraying which begin to set after 7-8 days of sowing. The plants start flowering and seeding around July and August.
If the plant did not bear seeds, they wear cut and soft fiber was extracted from their skin. This soft fiber was then used to produce a soft cloth or bhangila (meaning cloth made from hemp) are made. The plant were harvested in October after they bore flowers and seeds.
The plants with fully developed flowers and seeds are harvested in October. Their stalks are dried for 8 to 10 days in strong sunlight. Later those bundles are soaked in running water for three days. On the fourth day the outer skin is removed, washed properly and left to dry. Each outer skin is finely peeled and separated by the nails of the hand. It is then twisted to form a spindle (tikuli) of thread.
This thread is boiled in a solution of ash and water for 4 hours. After that the thread is ready for further whitening. This method of making hemp clothes and bags existed in Nepal at that time.
He also writes that half a seed or a raw seed, produces 10 or 12 loads of cannabis from a land approximately 605 square yards.
He also mentions that the hemp produced in Uttarakhand possessed superior properties that were needed to be sold in European markets. The hemp fiber produced in Uttarakhand and Nepal was strong, fine, and soft and had invisible natural fibers.
The study of the historical documents mentioned above is essential because local resource-based self-employment which is not polluting needs to be developed in the Himalayan state that was formed 15 years ago. Tourism (ecotourism), natural fibers and handicrafts are the three major employment industries that are smokeless or free from air pollution.
It will also be necessary to clarify here that the main objective of this article is to promote the cultivation of cannabis only for use in medicine, cosmetics, paper, insulation, energy use.
According to the study of Bombay Hamp Company – Section 8/9/10 of the Excise Act also prohibits and cultivates due to the narcotic and intoxicating substances found in cannabis. However, under Section 14 there is a provision for the cultivation of hemp under the supervision and guidance of Excise Officers.
If the THC level in commercial cannabis falls between 0.3 and 1.5 then such cannabis does not fall into the category of intoxicants. But if the THC level exceeds the level of 1.5 it is considered intoxicating. The cultivation of such cannabis will be prohibited
Now, based on the directions of the state government, Pant Nagar Agricultural University, Bharsar Agricultural University, Vivekananda Hilly Agricultural Research Institute, will help with an advanced variety of cannabis which is useful for fiber and the level of THC in this variety will be less than 0.3. The usage of such seeds will be promoted to encourage agriculture in the unused mountain land.
Social activist Shri Ishwar Joshi, who is working on Van Panchayats, says that in 1992-93, a committee was formed by the local people to free cannabis cultivation from the Narcotics Act.
But they were unable to do substantial progress at that time. He believes that it is totally wrong to cultivate cannabis for intoxication but it is not inappropriate if the hemp fiber and seeds are used to increase local self-employment.
In Kumaon, cannabis seeds have been used since ancient times as a spice in cooking in Gederi or cabbage vegetable.
In rural areas, the poor tenant farmers grind a paste of hemp seeds, salt and lemon sauce to make interesting vegetable curries. Sometimes, a small quantity of hemp seeds and Timaru seeds are ground together to make a tasty drink made from whey.
“According to Section 14 of the Narcotics Act 1985, the government can cultivate cannabis for industrial use of hemp fiber, seed, and horticulture under special provisions. Section 14 of the National Policy on NDPS (Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances) Act 1985 reiterates that high-value oils can be made from cannabis seeds.”
Mr. Dinesh Joshi, Senior Program Coordinator of Uttarakhand Bamboo and fiber Development Council informed that hemp fiber was widely used in the Himalayas during trade with Tibet and Bhutan. Special Chapels (footwear) for easily walking on snowy surfaces, ropes, small bags, and covers for oxen mouth were commonly used products made from hemp fiber.
In such a situation, it is completely unfair to protest against the encouragement of cannabis cultivation by some so-called intellectuals.
He also informed that soon after the formation of the new state, the Uttarakhand Bamboo and fiber Development Council and Agas Federation, began with a training and processing program related to hemp fiber in 2004 at Pipalkoti. The success of this endeavor has led to the Sir Ratan Tata Trust to further encourage the activities.
Even today, the Agaaz Federation at Peepalkoti is carrying on activities to advance the industry of Kandali and Bhimal Fibers along with cannabis fiber. Here, more attention needs to be paid to the positive and benefit use of hemp fiber and instead of unnecessarily emphasizing its intoxicating properties.
Mr. Hari Krishna, who is working with the Agaad Foundation on the Dance Kandali project in Chamoli District, said that by hemp fiber cultivation may be encouraged in land previously used for cattle flocking. It is possible that the hemp cultivated on this barren land may be misused for intoxication purposes. But hundreds of jobs can be created to benefit society if cultivation of hemp fiber with low THC level is undertaken with proper supervision.
Shri Anil Chandola of Indian Institute of Rural Industries informed that in his carding plant all the fibers of hemp-kandali, wool etc. are carded. There is a great demand of hemp yarn both in India as well as abroad.
Young Dilzad and Sumit, who are associated with the Bombay Hemp Company, informed that in India alone, hemp fiber, oil of cannabis seeds, soap made from hemp seeds and the biomass from residue hemp stalks left are used for making building materials , insulation panels, motor car bumpers according to research work done with Agaad Federation since the last three years.
So they are saddened that certain intellectuals of Uttarakhand are disrupting the ongoing development work taking place by creating an undue uproar about negatives of intoxication and licensing.
Section 14 of the Narcotics Act 1985 states that under special provisions the government can cultivate cannabis only and only for the industrial use such as hemp fiber, seed and horticultural use. Section 14 of the NDPS (Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances) Act 1985 reiterates that high value oils can be made from cannabis seeds.
In some countries, cannabis with Low THC (tetra hydra cannabinol) level can be grown.
Under Section 17 (1) (b) of the NDPS Act, the cultivation of cannabis under the Excise Act is permitted in Uttarakhand areas of Almora, Garhwal and Nainital, excluding the Terai Bhabar region. But cannabis can never be used under any circumstances for intoxication.
On the other hand, since 2011 at Pant Nagar Agricultural University, under the direction of Dr. Salil K Tiwari, Dr Alka Goyal, Dr. Ashutosh Dubey, Dr. A.k. Verma, Dr. Shishir Tandon and Dr. Sumit Chaturvedi efforts are striving to cultivate cannabis species with low level of THC for better production of fiber. This will prevent the illegal cultivation of cannabis grown for intoxication purposes in mountainous areas.
In a recently conducted meeting at the Bijapur guest house, the Uttarakhand government provided specific instructions to Mr. Manoj Chandran, the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Conservator of Uttarakhand Bamboo and Fiber Development Council that extensive cultivation, storage, and utilization of all natural fibers of Uttarakhand should be undertaken to increase self-employment in the state.
Plastic and polythene should be banned at pilgrimage and tourist places and instead handicraft products made from cannabis, bhimal, dance candali, agave, bhabar grass should be encouraged.
The Chief Minister also emphasized that the development of natural resources in villages will mitigate migration of the villagers. He also affirmed that it would be his endeavor to establish new dimensions of development in Uttarakhand by connecting the state with institutions in India and abroad.