The international drug trade highway has a new key stopover: New Delhi.
According to figures released by the Delhi Police, heroin trade witnessed a surge of 7.382 kg: up from 61.087 kg in 2008 to 68.469 kg, by the end of last year.
The past decade has already seen a massive boost as far as farming of opium in rural Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and the illicit trade of heroin are concerned.
The Capital is now a key transit point for the drug before it moves west to feed the thriving European black market.
Last year alone, said police, there was a spurt of 12 per cent in the amount of the highly addictive opium derivative being pumped into the Capital for domestic consumption and export.
The Crime Branch, responsible for keeping the narcotics trade under check in the city, seized 35.43 kg of the contraband, as per Y.S. Dadwal, Commissioner of Police, Delhi.
Even though the number of arrests for drug-related offences has dropped from 806 in 2008 to 433 in 2009, the figures are no indicator of the expansion of the drug trade.
"We're no longer talking about small-time dealers smuggling heroin or smack into the country for domestic addicts. Substantial quantities of the drug are brought into the Capital, bound for the international market," said Neeraj Thakur, additional commissioner of police (crime).
A big part of India's centrality to the drug trade is plain geography.
The country's proximity to two of the major opium production centres on the continent — the 'golden crescent' consisting of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, as well as the 'golden triangle', which covers Burma, Thailand and Laos — facilitates an influx of the contraband from bordering nations like Nepal, Pakistan and especially, Afghanistan.
“The biggest influx of the contraband originates in Afghanistan and is flown into the Capital,” added Thakur.
Heroin is derived from opium, and Afghanistan is by far the world’s largest illicit producer of the opium poppy.
The Crime Branch had made repeated seizures of heroin from Afghan nationals in 2009.
“We recently arrested three people at the IGI Airport, including two Afghan nationals who were part of an international gang of drug smugglers,” said a senior police officer.
“They were carrying 15 kg of heroin: worth an estimated Rs 15 crore in the international market.”
According to police, two more Afghan nationals and one Nigerian were arrested shortly after 1.5 kg of high-quality heroin was found in their possession. The trio had allegedly smuggled it into Delhi from Afghanistan.
“Our sleuths maintained effective vigilance throughout the year, with outstanding detections of drug-related offences,” added the officer.