Fatter pay packets, higher stress, peer pressure. These are just some of the reasons for the rising cocaine consumption in India, Mumbai in particular. In fact, say Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC) officials on condition of anonymity, Mumbai is well on its way to becoming a major transit point for the smuggling of the drug.
Pointing to the Maninder Singh arrest — the former Test cricketer was arrested in Delhi on Tuesday for cocaine possession — a top Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) officer said a United Nations report two years ago had predicted that India would be the next target destination for cocaine smugglers as demand was steadily dropping in North America, which accounts for two-thirds of global cocaine sales.
The NCB officer added that Europe had also become saturated, resulting in drug cartels looking for new markets. "Surging growth and newfound prosperity makes India an ideal target," said the officer, adding cocaine is sold in India for Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000 a gram.
Seizures in recent years only confirm what the NCB officer says. In 2004, a mere 6 kg of cocaine was seized throughout India and in 2005 it was just 2 kg. But in 2006, 204 kg of cocaine was seized, of which a single seizure at Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust in June accounted for 200 kg.
"Mumbai is likely to become a transit point to various countries across the world," said a senior ANC official on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media. "Mumbai is an international city, well connected by sea and air with the rest of the world," he pointed out.
Sociologist Nandini Sardesai agreed that the urban lifestyle, and increasing stress and economic independence among youth are fuelling cocaine consumption. She added that the mushrooming of call centres — most employees are young, well-paid and work odd hours — may have also led to higher cocaine consumption. "Many also take to it because their friends and colleagues are doing it," Sardesai added.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Dilip Shrirao, head of the ANC, said cocaine as a party drug is increasing in popularity by the day. "We are maintaining a strict vigil on cocaine peddling," he added.
Officers in the NCB, which comes under the Central Government, said that cocaine comes to India mainly from South American countries like Colombia, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador via African countries, mainly Nigeria. Among these, Colombia controls 70 per cent of the smuggling.