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IGI accounts for nearly half of airport drug busts in the country, says NCB

A total of 47 drug smuggling cases were detected at airports across the country last year, out of which 22 were in Delhi.

delhi Updated: Jan 01, 2018 13:30 IST
Prawesh Lama
Prawesh Lama
Hindustan Times
A CISF sniffer dog checks baggage at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi.
A CISF sniffer dog checks baggage at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi.(HT File)
         

Delhi international airport is the most commonly used airport by drug smugglers and accounts for nearly half of all drug busts at Indian airports, figures from of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) show.

A total of 47 drug smuggling cases were detected at airports across the country last year, out of which 22 were in Delhi, data shows. Bangalore and Chennai, which come second and third on the list with nine and six cases respectively, are only a fraction compared to Delhi’s toll of drug busts. Mumbai, coming fourth, had only four cases.

Delhi had topped the list in 2015 too, when 25 out of 52 drug busts in the country were at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.

Senior NCB officials said a new trend was emerging this year that smugglers were using smaller airports to avoid tighter security at airports in metropolitan cities. “This year, we made seizures from smaller airports such as Kochi, Trichy and even Imphal. A majority of smugglers told us that they were shifting operations to smaller airports to avoid tougher security at airports like Delhi and Bangalore,” a senior NCB official said.

Customs officers at Delhi said they were shifting their focus from catching gold smugglers to keeping an eye out for drugs. “We are also taking the help of sniffer dogs to track drugs and narcotics at the airport,” said a senior officer.

RISE IN COUGH SYRUP SMUGGLING

An analysis of the drugs seized last year shows that the most common drug tracked at the Delhi airport was cough syrup. In 2015, there was not a single registered case of cough syrup smuggling from Delhi, while last year there were 12 cases. Records show that cough syrup is usually sent to Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Agencies believe cases of cough syrup smuggling have become increasingly common because it can be easily acquired.

Phensedyl was the most commonly smuggled cough syrup as it contains ingredients such as codeine and dextropropoxyphene, which can be abused as they produce relaxation, euphoria and dissociative effects, when consumed in high doses. Being a Schedule H category drug under the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, one can buy it only through a prescription of a registered medical practitioner. Last month, Delhi Police seized around 10,000 bottles of Phensedyl, meant to be smuggled to Bangladesh. While the market price of a 100ml bottle of cough syrup in India is around ₹150, in Bangladesh it was sold for the equivalent of ₹900 and is used as an alternative to alcohol.

Two years ago, an inquiry was launched against an Air India crew for smuggling cough syrup to the United Kingdom by hiding bottles in their luggage. In the UK, cough syrup is not available over the counter and is believed to be most commonly abused prescription drug among teenagers.

First Published: Dec 31, 2017 23:07 IST

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