Drug makes comeback after decades; Mumbai cops say it’s cheap, doesn’t show up in tests
Officials suspect a new cartel has resumed production of ‘Kamli’, an adulterated form of brown sugar, after its original peddler passed awaymumbai Updated: Nov 18, 2017 15:00 IST
Kamli — an adulterated form of brown sugar marketed decades ago by a woman after whom it was named — has returned to Mumbai’s streets after a lengthy hiatus.
What has the city’s drug enforcement agencies worried is the drug’s molecular formulation, which subverts clinical tests required to bring the contraband under the list of banned drugs and book its peddlers.
Deputy commissioner of police (DCP) Shivdeep Lande said the police were on alert and the crackdown against narcotics would continue.
Top sources in the anti-narcotics cell (ANC) said the locally improvised contraband was thought to have disappeared from the market a decade ago, following Kamli’s forced sabbatical on account of poor health. She died a few years ago.
However, recent seizures have led ANC sleuths to suspect that the same drug is being circulated once more.
Little is known about Kamli’s personal life. Her foray into the narcotics trade came at a time when the D Company facilitated the inflow of synthetic opioids from Pakistan and south-east Asia into the city in the 1980s. The deadly drug — mostly brown sugar — was called ‘smack’ or ‘skag’ and peddled in the streets. Its customers? Celebrities and children from across socio-economic strata.
At that point of time, Kamli, a migrant who had settled in Tardeo slums, held sway over the drug trade in south Mumbai through a trusted network of peddlers. It was said that the market for her drug was the dark alleys of Ballard Estate. After the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, the police initiated an all-out crackdown on the drug syndicate. After a few run-ins with the law, Kamli shut shop temporarily as the supply chain had dried up.
Taking advantage of the lack of drugs available on the market, Kamli resumed operations once more in the late 1990s as the prices of contraband soared. By this time, she had found a way to bypass the law — through a newfound chemical spray that altered the molecular composition of the drug while retaining its effectiveness.
She began peddling Kamli, which became an instant hit among the poor and lower middle-class as it cost a fraction of what pure heroin did, said sources. Its composition also meant that users and peddlers could get away in case of arrest under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
Old ANC records suggest that Kamli’s men were caught peddling the drug several times. However, the police had to let them ago after forensic tests to detect brown sugar came back negative.
Now, ANC sources suspect that a new cartel has resumed the production of Kamli using the old modus operandi.
Cartels procure high-grade heroin at a street price of Rs2.5 crore a kg. Later, harmless additives such as baking soda or monosodium glutamate is added to increase the quantity and bring down the retail cost. For every kg of pure heroin, 4kg of additives are added. Each kg is sold to small distributers at Rs1 crore a kg.
Retailers convert the adulterated drug into Kamli by spraying it with a certain chemical. Sources said they suspect that the operation is carried out at rented flats on the outskirts of Navi Mumbai.
While a pouch containing 1g Kamli is sold at Rs250 to Rs300 on the street, pure drugs of the same volume cost around Rs5,000.
Noted anti-drug campaigner Dr Yusuf Merchant said it was difficult to alter the molecular composition of the drug by adding another chemical to it. “I am unaware of this particular drug. It is possible that another method could have been used to alter it,” he said.