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How drugs like heroin, opium, cocaine, marijuana make way into India

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By Harshmeet Singh

Over the past decade or so, the drug trafficking patterns in India have seen a major change. Drugs entering India from Nepal and Bhutan now constitute the major proportion of drugs coming to India illegally. The open borders in UP and Bihar witness a major import of brown sugar, marijuana (ganja) and hasish from Nepal and Bhutan.

Drug cartels

The drug cartels, usually Nigerians or Kenyans, enter the scene once the drugs reach India from across the borders. It is the responsibility of these middle men to ship the drugs to international markets in the USA, Europe and Canada. The New Delhi / Mumbai – Lagos – Addis Ababa air routes have been frequently used by the drug cartels to carry drugs to the International markets from India. There have been multiple instances when authorities have confiscated drugs from terminally ill patients who are flown to India for treatment.

Ease of drug availability

The most frightening aspect of the drug abuse problem in the country is the ease with which these drugs reach the hands of the youth. Situated between the two well known illicit opium producing areas in Asia, the Golden Crescent and the Golden Triangle, India’s geographical position ensures easy drug trafficking to the country. Afghanistan, a part of the Golden Crescent, accounts for more than 90% of world’s illicit opium. The country is also the biggest producer of hashish in the world.

Porous borders at the northeast and Kashmir side ensure that the drugs easily reach the country. The vast, barren and poorly guarded Thar Desert provide an ideal route for drug trafficking into India. Local production of low grade heroin in India due to an increasing demand has further added to the existing drug problem in the country.

The rise of Sikh militancy in Punjab in the 1980s resulted in a spurt in drug trafficking cases in the state. The Wagah-Attari border was repeatedly used by the miscreants to carry drugs across the border. The Samjhauta express, between Amritsar and Lahore, has also been known to be used for drug trafficking from Pakistan to India on a frequent basis. This has made Amritsar a major heroine centre in Punjab. Numerous seizures of drugs at the Kutch give enough indication about the use of local boats from Karachi to supply drugs into India. There have been enough evidences to show that a significant portion of the money made by drug trade is supplied to the militants active in Jammu & Kashmir and Punjab.

Goa – the party destination or the drug capital?

The frequent rave parties and a constant domestic and international tourist inflow make Goa an ideal drug market. The famous beaches of Goa are filled with local drug dealers who can be called upon just by blowing a whistle. Over the years, the local drug mafia has spread its business beyond the country and started exporting to countries like Thailand and Malaysia. Current trends point towards the use of small children for drug trafficking, owing to softer juvenile laws in the country.

The unfortunate case of Nigerian Obodo Uzomo Simeon’s death in Goa in 2013 is still afresh in the public memory. Things turned ugly when Goan BJP MLA Michael Lobo justified his murder saying that “98 per cent Nigerians, African nationals in Goa are involved in drugs”. The allegations of involvement of Russian drug mafia in the murder of British teen Scarlette in Goa in 2008 was a growing indication of Goa slipping into the hands drug mafias.

An increasingly young population makes India extremely vulnerable to even higher levels of drug abuse in the coming years. One feels that the correct education and ethics would be more effective than the legislation in putting a lid on the drug problem in the country.

How bad is India’s situation?

With an average of 7 suicides every day, drug addiction and drug abuse accounts for 3.3% of all the suicides in the country. This number is much higher than the suicides caused due to poverty (1.9%), bankruptcy (2%) and dowry (1.6%). According to the data furnished by the Ministry of Social Justice and empowerment, India is home to over 3 million drug abuse victims.

According to the Narcotics Control Bureau, Punjab has faced the most drug seizures in the country over the past few years, followed by Madhya Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Rajasthan. According to the officials, despite an exponential growth in the number of cases booked for drug abuse in the recent years, there have been negligible executions. The Narcotics Bureau and Psychotropic Substances Act prescribes for a minimum of 10 years rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 1 lakh for drug offences. Over the past 4 years, more than 100 million kilogram of drugs has been seized from various parts of the country, with Punjab accounting for almost 60% of them.

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  • Jagpreet Kaur Sandhu

    It’s unfortunate that usage of drugs in India is rising day by day. And there are thousands of ways today to get them.

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Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran Hold Meeting To Counter Trafficking of Opiate

The United States has spent more than $8 billion in the past 17 years to assist Afghanistan in eradication efforts.

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Opium
An Afghan man works on a poppy field in Jalalabad province. VOA

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran have pledged to increase cooperation and information-sharing for effectively combating the trafficking of Afghan opiates.

War-shattered Afghanistan remains the world’s largest producer of opium, though the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime noted in its latest survey the opium cultivation decreased by 20 percent in 2018 due to a severe drought and reduced prices.

The illegal opiates are largely smuggled to international markets through Pakistan and Iran.

Need for more initiatives 

Afghan, Pakistan and Iranian counternarcotics officials concluded their two-day UNODC-facilitated interaction Wednesday in Islamabad, where delegates underscored the need for more efforts against the massive flow of illicit drugs.

Participants at the “Triangular Initiative” meeting called for timely sharing of information and conducting simultaneously interdiction operations along their shared largely porous borders.

oPIUM CULTIVATION
In this April 11, 2016, photo, farmers harvest raw opium at a poppy field in the Zhari district of Kandahar province, Afghanistan. VOA

The forum was established in 2007 with a mission to promote regional cooperation to reduce the poppy cultivation, trafficking, and consumption of drugs in the region and beyond.

Officials acknowledged that despite Afghanistan’s political tensions with Pakistan and Iran anti-drugs cooperation largely continues.

Renewed attitude 

Cesar Guedes, UNODC representative in Pakistan, noted the three countries attended the Islamabad meeting with “a revived attitude and role”, raising prospects for more effective counternarcotics efforts in 2019.

“More needs to be done because the level of [Afghan opium] production has also increased. They need really to coordinate closer in their joint efforts,” he told VOA

Guedes also called for increased international assistance, saying Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran alone cannot curb the menace of drugs.

opium
FILE – Afghan farmers collect raw opium as they work in a poppy field in Khogyani district of Jalalabad east of Kabul, Afghanistan, May 10, 2013. VOA

“This has to be done in the framework of shared responsibility. All the countries, producers, consumers and transit need to join the effort,” he said.

Despite many challenges facing the government, the head of the Afghan delegation said authorities have taken significant steps to eradicate drug trafficking.

US assistance 
Director General for Policy Planing at the Afghan Ministry of Narcotics, Mohammad Osman Frotan, said 89 percent of poppy cultivation this year has taken place in the Afghan provinces most hit by insurgent activities. He said counternarcotics authorities during 2018 have seized more than 433 tons of different types of drugs, and arrested and prosecuted almost 4,000 suspects.

Also Read: Pakistan In U.S. Blacklist For Religious Freedom Violations

The United States has spent more than $8 billion in the past 17 years to assist Afghanistan in eradication efforts. But the effort has failed to stop opium production, which increased to record highs and stood at an estimated 9,000 tons in 2017. Critics blamed insecurity, rampant corruption and patronage by influential Afghans for the unprecedented growth. (VOA)