Majid Malekzada, 19, left for India from his home in Afghanistan in September 2015 in search for a job and an opportunity to meet his idol Shah Rukh Khan. Majid told his mother that he would send money so that his paralysed brother could get better medical treatment.
A Class 12 dropout, Majid used to work as a cleaning staff at a Kabul restaurant. He reached Delhi airport on September 18 and passed out after complaining of severe stomach pain. The police took him to a hospital where a scan of his abdomen showed some pellets. He was given laxatives and the morning after he excreted 38 big capsules containing heroin worth Rs 2 crore. He had been promised $400 for the job.
On January 21 this year, Vietnamese citizen T Hach Thi Thanh arrived at Delhi airport. She had followed a hectic itinerary cutting across Brazil, Vietnam and Addis Ababa, to reach Delhi. As she made her way to a hotel in Paharganj, a team of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) followed her. Later in the day she was arrested along with two others and 3 Kg cocaine.
On February 4, a Zambian woman and her female partner from Tanzania were caught with 4 Kg cocaine valued at Rs 30 crore from a hotel in Mahipalpur. She had arrived from Addis Ababa the same day.
1 Brazil-Addis Ababa (capital of Ethiopia)-Delhi. 2 Peru-Sao Paulo-Delhi. 3 Brazil-Doha or Abu Dhabi-Delhi
COCAINE Mainly produced in Latin American countries. It is transported to Brazil and from there to Africa’s Lagos or Lome for packaging. From here, the peddlers carry it to India
HEROIN and OPIUM Are trafficked from Afghanistan via Pakistan through porous borders. Traffickers from Saudi Arabia and UAE also smuggle them in chocolates and check-in baggages NCB OPERATIONS IN 2017 AND 2016
The growing number of arrests of dug mules like Majid and T Hach force one to question whether Delhi is becoming a favourite transit hub for international drug smugglers?
Narcotics Control Bureau’s (NCB) records show that at least one anti-narcotics operation was carried out every week in 2016 in Delhi. They registered 47 cases and arrested 27 persons with 221 Kg narcotics worth over Rs 70 crore that were being smuggled into Delhi from various countries.
Delhi Police seized around 6,400 kg of locally and internationally produced drugs. Over 100 Kg of drugs were seized by the CISF at airports across the country. Out of this, 64 Kg was seized at Delhi airport. Among the most smuggled are party drugs such as cocaine, heroin, pseudoephedrine, Mephedrone or ‘Meow Meow’.
Despite continued vigil and action against drug traffickers by multiple agencies, the number of seizures in Delhi have only grown. “Delhi is certainly becoming a hub and favourite transit point of international drug traffickers. The data says it all and the trend is pretty alarming,” Rajendra Pal Singh, deputy director general (DDG) of NCB told HT.
Apart from international drug trafficking, the police are also trying to curb local consumption of drugs. A senior police officer said Delhi is among the largest cities of India and has a large population which can afford to buy expensive drugs.
“Delhi’s proximity with NCR towns like Gurgaon, Noida, Faridbad where rave parties are organised in farmhouses and other private spaces also attract drug peddlers,” the officer said.
NCB’s statistics show that drug seizures saw a spike of around 31% in 2016 as compared to 2015. Similarly, there was an increase of around 33% in the seizure of party drugs in 2016. However, more drug peddlers were arrested in 2015 over 2016. In 2015, 46 people, including 21 foreigners, were caught with narcotic substances by the NCB. Out of the 21 foreign drug smugglers, seven were Nigerians, two each were from Ghana and Afghanistan, six were South Africans and remaining from other Asian countries. Ten drug couriers were women.
NCB sleuths found that a majority of party drugs were smuggled into Delhi-NCR from foreign countries.
“Heroin is mainly smuggled into India from Pakistan. Once it reaches Delhi, it is supplied to local drug dealers who channel it to rave parties and individuals. Besides, the popular party drug is also shipped to European and American countries concealed in small courier parcels via air,” a senior NCB official said.
“The drugs are mainly concealed in false cavities in books, paintings, machinery parts, combs, designer clothing, shoe soles, decoration items, skipping ropes, artifacts, soft toys, baby clothes, saree falls, ghagras, etc,” the officer added.
Cocaine is smuggled into India from Latin American countries, especially Brazil. It is mainly brought in through airports by professional carriers in their personal baggage by creating false cavities or by concealing it in food products and milk powder. There are also professional ‘swallowers’ or mules who are hired and paid handsomely for cocaine trafficking.
“Cocaine stuffed in small capsules ensheathed in cellophane, rubber or gelatin coverings are swallowed by these mules. The capsules are later retrieved by giving them laxatives. Besides this, cocaine also reaches India from Brazil concealed in courier parcels,” explained another NCB official.
Other party drugs such as Methaqualone, Methamphetamine and pseudo ephedrine are generally carried personally by the traffickers after concealing them in false cavities created in their registered baggage. They are also shipped through courier parcels.
In a number of these cases the handlers are based in India and control the overseas movement of swallowers or transporters. In the case of the Vietnamese and Zambian women caught this year, the handlers were foreign nationals based in Delhi who are still at large.