The railway police in Rajasthan have been dealing for the past six months with a new problem that has its roots in a district in West Bengal - some 1,500 km away from the desert state.
From January, the Government Railway Police (GRP) in Rajasthan have busted 70 drug peddling cases in which all accused hail from West Bengal’s Malda and its adjacent areas.
“So far, we have arrested 89 accused who were smuggling a combined quantity of 764.195 kg of narcotics. Most of the arrested people are from Malda in West Bengal. A large number of them belong to Kaliachak,” said superintendent of police (GRP Ajmer) Omprakash.
He said in most of the cases, it was found that these people were acting as couriers on behalf of the drug mafias in West Bengal and Rajasthan.
“These are people who would come to Rajasthan to earn their living as daily wage labourers or construction workers. Many of them are from Malda and Cooch Behar districts,” said Omprakash.
“Earlier, most of opium, cocaine or smack that would be smuggled into Rajasthan would be transported through places in Madhya Pradesh such as Neemuch. But now, West Bengal is giving tough competition to these traditional routes of smuggling,” he said.
Officials said apart from the fact that there was a steady flow of people from Malda and its adjacent areas coming to Rajasthan in search of a living, opium produced in Malda is considered to be better in quality.
“The opium grown in Malda is considered to be purer in quality than the one that comes from areas such as Madhya Pradesh. We have inputs that naxalite affected states such as Chhattisgarh are also involved in this racket. The problem is that every time it’s the courier who gets caught and the kingpin running the racket stays safe,” said Omprakash.
Officials added that illegal poppy cultivation and opium trade was a thriving industry in Malda.
Arnab Ghosh, SP Malda, said the district police were aware of the illegal opium industry and have taken various measures to crack down on them.
“We have curbed opium smuggling to a large extent and are constantly trying to apprehend the kingpins,” said Ghosh. “The time for poppy cultivation is still three months away.”
“In another development, we have arrested a few people from Rajasthan who were involved in suspicious activities in Malda. We have informed the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) in Rajasthan about the people arrested in Malda,” Ghosh said.
Rajasthan ATS officials said they were closely monitoring the developments. “We are aware of this situation and have provided inputs to the state and GRP police to track these drug consignments. We have received information from Malda police about those from Rajasthan engaged in illegal activities there,” said additional director general of police (ATS) Umesh Mishra.