Modi government looks to crack down on drug smuggling
The Narendra Modi government has decided to cut the roots of terror funding by concertedly targeting drug smuggling in which, according to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Delhi and Punjab have emerged as the principal fulcrums as hubs of both distribution and consumption of opium-based drugs.
According to home ministry officials, a joint coordination committee, formed only last month under NCB director general Rakesh Asthana, met on Wednesday for the first time to discuss ways to curb the drug trade. According to estimates, India is abusing 36 tons of heroin each year.
The market value of 1 kg of heroin is Rs 1 crore, putting the value of heroin consumed in the country at Rs 36,000 crore (1 ton is equivalent to 1,000 kg).
“The drug survey conducted in February 2019 showed 20 lakh abusers of heroin, who conservatively are consuming 0.5 gram of drug. This means the total consumption is 360 tons but given the fact that drug is diluted by one-tenth, the conservative figure of drug consumption is 36 tons, but the total seizure was only 1.5 tons,” said a home ministry official.
With drugs being smuggled from both Afghanistan and Myanmar, the heroin seizures in India have touched a new high with 532 kilograms recovered from the Attari-Wagah integrated check post in June.
The biggest seizure by NCB is the 1,500 kgs it found on a boat in Gujarat’s Kandla port in May 2017.
Given that the Modi government is worried not only about the terror funding but also the social impact of drugs, the NCB is being restructured and two additional inspector general posts are being created for better enforcement.
The NCB intelligence as well as operations units are being upgraded.
According to senior officials, a record 328,000 hectares in Afghanistan was cultivated for opium poppy in 2017 with the help of the Taliban; the figure went down to 263,000 in 2018 with the heroin being smuggled through three major routes.
“The three routes are Central Asia to Russia, Balkan route via Iran and third to India via Pakistan. The number of shipments via the India route have jumped from 10 to 25% with strong enforcement action on other routes. Poppy cultivation in Myanmar is in 40,000 hectares of land in Shan state and the drug is coming towards Delhi and Punjab through the porous borders in Mizoram and Manipur,” said an NCB official.
Illegal poppy cultivation is underway in the north-eastern states and Jharkhand.
The joint coordination committee has decided that the important players in the drug trade in India should be identified. The bilateral talks between India’s home minister, Amit Shah, and his Bangladeshi counterpart, Asaduzzaman Khan, on Wednesday also discussed the possibility of intelligence sharing between countries as well as joint action by New Delhi, Dhaka and Naypidaw within their own borders.
The biggest worry of the Modi government is that a large quantity of smuggled drugs is being consumed within India as alkaloids being brought into the country are being seized, but what is being seized going outside the country are precursor chemicals used in the illegal manufacture of narcotics.
Some 2.1% of Indians, on the basis of the drug abuse report, are consuming opium and its derivatives with drugs like cocaine confined to Delhi and Mumbai.
According to North Block, the Taliban and its ideological brethren, the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), are running their jihadi machine on huge stashes of drug money. The drug money is not only used to recruit people in India and Afghanistan into militant ranks, but also radicalize them.