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.
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.