After seizure of 236 kg of ephedrine crystals from a factory in Pithampur, the Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) is planning to check small pharmaceutical units in Pithampur and nearby industrial areas for evidence of manufacturing ephedrine without proper licenses.
Sources in the department said one needs to spend only between Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 and take five days to make a batch (45 kg) of ephedrine hydrochloride. This drug is synthesised to produce narcotic Methamphetamine, popularly called Ice Tablet.
Sources said the drug is popular in western countries, but its popularity is rising in India.
Most of the consignment seized was meant for illegal export by hiding it inside other consignments.
Over-the-counter-sale of ephedrine is banned in India since 2006, but its controlled manufacture as a bulk drug, mainly used for treating asthma, bronchitis and low blood pressure, remains legal.
“There are several small, moribund factories. We plan to check them,” a DRI source said.
The three accused, who were arrested recently, are partners Brij Bhushan Pandey and Santosh Singh from Uttar Pradesh and buyer Babar Ghulam Murtaza Khan from Pune. All three have been charged under Sections 22 (contravention of psychotropic substances) and 23 (illegal trade of narcotic substances) of the Narcotic Drug and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.
They were produced before a special court where the DRI got their remand for 14 days. If convicted, they face a 10-year jail term.
After preliminary probe, the intelligence wing inferred that Impress Chemicals, the factory where the drug was being manufactured, had been rented for the last three months from its owner, an MBBS doctor based in Saket, Delhi. The doctor, whose identity has not been disclosed, has been asked to meet the DRI officials, sources said.