The manufacture and sale of opium and opium alkaloids at the Ghazipur factory


The manufacture and sale of opium and opium alkaloids at the Ghazipur factory


Author: S. K. Vardhan
Pages: 35 to 37
Creation Date: 1956/01/01

The manufacture and sale of opium and opium alkaloids at the Ghazipur factory

M.Sc., Assoc. I.A.R.I. S. K. Vardhan
Manager, Government Opium and Alkaloids Factory, Ghazipur (U.P.).

The present article deals with the method adopted at the Ghazipur Opium and Alkaloids Factory for the processing of opium for excise and export purposes and the manufacture of opium alkaloids for export and internal consumption.

In Ghazipur (45 miles east of the holy city of Benares) is situated the main Government Factory of India, wherein the bulk of opium is received for processing from the opium producing centres in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Bharat and Rajasthan. It occupies a position on the high bank of the Ganges between the civil station and the main town, and covers an area of about 25 acres. The present site was selected in the year 1820. From 1789 to 1820 the operations of the factory were carried on, first in an enclosure on the east side of the main town, which was afterwards used as a charitable dispensary (since disposed of by the government), and then in the premises which now form the main part of the Ghazipur Jail. These successive changes of sites were due to the rapid increase in the turnover of the then Opium Agency and the consequent expansion of operations at the factory. An adequate idea of this expansion can be formed from comparison of the turnover, which in 1795 was 1,200 mounds (about 43 tons) and in 1882 over 52,000 mounds (1,850 tons approx.). The factory is fully equipped to manufacture the quality of opium required for quasi-medical purposes in India, or to meet the requirements of pharmaceutical concerns in India and abroad.

The main operations of the factory are: Receipt and storage of opium; manipulation and manufacture of opium for the export market; manufacture of" excise opium "; packing of opium cakes; disposal of contraband opium; manufacture of various opium alkaloids.

Receipt and storage of opium

The new season's opium begins to arrive at the factory by about the second or third week of April. On arrival the consignment is unloaded from the railway wagons or motor trucks and stacked at a place set apart for the purpose under the care and supervision of the sales manager and the import officer.

The import officer, before taking charge of the consignment examines the locks and seals of the wagon, to ascertain that they have not been tampered with during transit (if tampering is suspected, the wagon is opened in the presence of the factory manager). On unlocking the wagon, a survey of the general condition of the bags and jars inside is made by the import officer in the presence of the ziledar (representative of the field officer) accompanying the consignment. Any damage noticed by the import officer is recorded and brought to the notice of the factory manager.

The bags and jars are then taken out, one by one, and carried to the import godown. The import officer tallies the number of bags and jars taken out with those entered on the invoice ( chalan register). The bags and jars are stacked, in accordance with their classification, at a place set apart in the import godown. The consignment number, the number of bags and jars and the name of the opium producing district from which the consignment has been received, are conspicuously marked near the stacking place. When all the bags and jars have been removed from the wagon and transferred to the import godown, the import officer undertakes a thorough search of the inside of the wagon to make sure that no opium in any quantity is left adhering to the sides or floor of the wagon. If opium is so found it is scraped off, and the wagon thoroughly washed before being pushed out of the factory siding.

The import officer thereafter once again compares the number of bags and jars as entered in the consignment invoice ( chalan register) with those actually received and stacked in the import godown.

Each consignment as it is received in the import godown is weighed, and any increase or decrease in weight noticed against the weight already recorded in the invoice ( chalan register) is noted down in a separate register maintained for the purpose. Variations of 1 lb and over are brought to the notice of the manager for checking with the field officers concerned.

After the weighing of the bags and jars, the consignment is laid out, number by number, according to the classification of the field officer for sampling.

Sampling and classification

The samples are drawn by means of a sampling tube, and are placed in tared dishes, separately for each class of bags or jars according to the field classification, and the dishes containing the samples are again weighed to determine the net weight of opium sent to the chemical control section in a locked box.

On receipt of the analytical report from the opium chemist in respect of a particular consignment, the grade, consistence and the morphine content are distinctly marked on each bag and jar, and the consignment transferred from the import godown to the opium stock godown or the inferior opium godown, as the case may be. The assistants in charge of these sections check the number of bags and jars transferred to their charge with the entries made on the assay paper, and thereafter arrange for storage of the opium in separate vats according to the morphine content. Opium in the factory is classified into four grades, namely, A, B1, B2 and B3 according to whether its morphine strength is over 12%, between 11 and 12%, 10 and 11% or between 8 and 10% respectively. All opium admixed with impurities is termed as "inferior" opium and stored and graded as" C "in the inferior opium godown.

Security measures

After the bags and jars have been emptied in the opium stock godowns, the opium adhering to the cloth bags and jars is scraped off by means of metal scrapers and transferred to the respective vats. The bags and jars are then sent to the inferior opium godown for a thorough wash in large vats filled with water. Similarly, all other containers, baskets, gunny bags etc. are also sent by the import officer direct to the inferior opium godown after scraping, for a thorough wash in the vats in order to ensure that no opium remains adhering to them. These bags, jars and baskets after washing and drying in the sun are again subjected to a thorough search before being allowed to leave the inferior opium godown. The washed bags and gunny covers are returned to the "general stores" for utilization during the next season, and the unserviceable bags and baskets are destroyed by burning in the factory incinerator. The broken pieces of earthen jars are thrown in the mid-stream of the river. These precautions are taken with a view to ensuring that no opium-soaked articles are in any way used for clandestine purposes.

All the opium vats in the opium stock godowns and the inferior opium godowns are provided with vat cards showing the total quantity of opium at 70o and 100? consistence respectively stored in them, the issues made thereafter, and the closing balances on any particular date.

All the vats in the stock godowns are kept covered and locked for security reasons. The doors and windows of the godowns are also provided with iron bars and wire netting. Each day, at the close of the factory, the godowns are double-locked and sealed with lead seals bearing the factory markings, in the presence of the section officers and the sales manager, each retaining the key of one of the two locks. In the morning when the factory reopens, both the officers jointly open the godowns. The factory is guarded day and night by armed guards.

All opium seized in any part of the country, by the police, excise, customs and intelligence officers of the state governments or the central government is ultimately sent to the opium factory at Ghazipur, for disposal. This opium is technically called "contraband opium ", and is stored separately under the charge of the opium stock assistant.

Manufacture of opium

The manufacturing sections obtain their requirements of opium from the stock godown on requisitions which are endorsed by the factory manager. Before supplies are made from any vat, the opium is tested for its consistence and morphine content.

The opium prepared for quasi-medical purposes is called "excise" or "abkari" opium. It is pure opium dried by exposure to the sun until its consistence is raised to 90o. Opium weighing 2 mounds (1641b approx.) is laid out in open wooden trays for sun-drying and when the consistence is raised to 90% the opium is stored in the godown and again tested for consistence and purity. Each such lot of opium at 90o consistence spread out in a tray is technically called dhundhia. After the receipt of the test report from the opium chemist; the passed dhundhias are cut into small blocks weighing about a seer (1 seer = .9331 kg.) or half seer, as the case may be, for caking, and are accurately weighed on the scales. Each weighed piece of opium is then sent to the press to be shaped into cubical cakes stamped with the factory die plates. After leaving the press, the cakes are again test weighed individually and adjusted, if necessary. Thereafter, the cakes pass on to a larger scale where, in the case of seer cakes, thirty cakes and in the case of half-seer cakes, sixty cakes, are collec- tively weighed to ensure that the weighing has been correct. The cakes collectively weighed are then wrapped in two sheets of butter paper, and tied with cotton tape embossed with the factory markings. The paper wrappers are stamped with secret code letters approved by the factory manager for each day's packing. When the 30 seer cakes or 60 half-seer cakes have been wrapped up, they are again checked on the scale against the total weight of opium plus the weight of wrappers and string etc., and if this test weighment is found correct the cakes are packed in chests in the presence of the assistant-in-charge. The cakes are packed in two layers of 30 compartments each, a cake fitting exactly into each compartment. Chests of the denominations of full, half, quarter and one-twelfth containing 60 seers, 30 seers, 15 seers and 5 seers are generally used.

The manufacture of excise opium is limited to the barest requirements of the various states in India for quasi-medical purposes, in consonance with the policy of the Government of India to ban such consumption by 31 March 1959. The supplies for such consumption within the country are, therefore, being progressively reduced at the rate of 10% of the supplies made during 1948--49. The state quotas of excise opium have, therefore, been fixed by the Narcotics Commissioner in accordance with this policy.

At the beginning of each financial year, the Excise Commissioners of the various states in India submit their annual indents for excise opium according to the quota fixed by the Narcotics Commissioner, specifying the various district officers to whom supplies have to be given during the year. Despatches for excise opium to the various states are made accordingly from the factory, and all consignments are invariably despatched by rail, duly insured for the value of the opium. Despatch of excise opium by post is totally prohibited.

The supplies of excise opium to the state governments is made on "no loss no profit" basis; the opium is subjected to an excise duty by the state governments.

Opium for medical use and for export

Medical opium cake or powder is manufactured primarily to meet the requirements of the government medical store depots and other pharmaceutical concerns for purely medical purposes. The supply is regulated under the provisions of the Dangerous Drugs Act and Rules. All supplies are made on the authority of a permit issued under the provisions of the Dangerous Drugs Act so as to prevent misuse.

Raw opium is also processed and supplied to meet the requirements of manufacturers abroad for medical and scientific purposes. The supply is made subject to the receipt of an import certificate issued under the Geneva Convention of 1925 by the Chief Narcotics Officer or any other officer authorized on behalf of the importing country and accepted by the Government of India in the Ministry of Finance (Revenue Division). Export by air is prohibited under the Dangerous Drugs, Import, Export and Transhipment Rules, save with the special permission of the Government of India.

Raw opium exported to foreign countries is manufactured generally in 2 lb cakes, but opium slabs in denominations of 10 lb or 20 lb are also manufactured and supplied if desired by the purchasers. The manufacture of export opium is open to all grades of good opium according to the requirements of the buyers in terms of morphine content. All deals for the sale of opium to foreign countries are finalised by the Government of India.

Manufacture of opium alkaloids

Opium alkaloids and their salts are also manufactured to meet the internal demands of pharmaceutical chemists, druggists and medical practitioners and the quantity which is found surplus to the home requirements is offered for sale to other countries.

Each lot of opium before issue to the alkaloid section for the extraction of alkaloids is tested for its morphine and codeine content to determine the total potential morphine or codeine present in the lot. The loss sustained at each stage of manufacture is carefully controlled.

The drugs are manufactured at the alkaloid works in the opium factory at Ghazipur, under the control and supervision of eminent chemists and strictly conform to the B.P., B.P.C., U.S.P., and other international standards. The sale of the drugs is regulated under the Dangerous Drugs Act.

All supplies of manufactured drugs to pharmaceutical chemists and druggists etc. are made on the basis of permits issued by the district magistrate or any other officer so empowered by the state governments for the districts in which the firms are located.