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Drug Problem: 274 narcotic-related cases registered and 320 people arrested in three months in India

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Image used for representational purpose. Image source: wikimedia Commons
  • Substance abuse has increased highly in the North East of India
  • Himachal Pradesh, like neighbouring Punjab, is facing a deadly menace- drugs and narcotics
  • In three months, 274 narcotic-related cases were registered and 320 people were arrested, police records show

Shimla September 11, 2016: Himachal Pradesh, like neighbouring Punjab, is facing a deadly menace- drugs and narcotics. In just three months, 274 narcotic-related cases were registered and 320 people were arrested, police records show. The amount of intake has alarming proportions and has turned into a matter of concern not just for the state government but for the courts too.

The state high court is not only pulling up government functionaries on each and every day for apparent lapses in dealing with this growing threat but virtually rapped them on their knuckles about the steps they have to initiate to counter it.

Quoting a study by the Indira Gandhi Medical College and Hospital, a recent judgment by a bench headed by Justice Rajiv Sharma observed 40 per cent youth in the state are involved in drug abuse.

Agreeing, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said the government has adopted zero tolerance towards narcotics. “Our neighbouring state (Punjab) is badly affected by drugs and in our state too its menace is a serious challenge,” he told IANS.

“Whether it’s Malana (in Kullu Valley) or any remote area that is known for growing opium or cannabis, the government is currently destroying their cultivation,” he added.

Police officials told IANS that the inaccessible valleys and lofty mountains in the western Himalayas are areas for cultivation of cannabis and opium. They are the country’s biggest drug-producing areas with a considerable quantity finding its way to Europe.

An official said the lure of drugs and quick bucks also attracts foreigners to the largely unexplored areas of Himachal Pradesh where they have become part of unorganised drug cultivation. Some of them never return home — they simply disappear mysteriously. They eventually become wanderers and are a threat to children. Their impulsive and vulnerable behaviour cannot be tolerated.

Police records show that there are 50,000 acres in Kullu Valley alone where cannabis is cultivated.

Chief Secretary V.C. Pharka, who was monitoring the fortnight-long statewide campaign that ended on September 5, said cannabis crops on 19,157 bighas of government land and 6,040 bighas of private land and 76,093 poppy plants were destroyed. (One bigha is 0.4 hectare.)

  • cannabis_sativa01

Countering this, BJP legislator and former minister Ravinder Ravi told IANS that areas in the state bordering Punjab and Haryana have become drug hubs. The drug menace has assumed alarming proportions in pilgrim centres and tourist destinations too. These tourist places have become a prey to such kind of acts and it leads to the decrease in the standard of that state.

In the just-concluded assembly session, he said, a stationery shop in the vicinity of a senior secondary school in Thural, some 90 km from Dharamsala town, sold ink eraser fluid worth Rs 3 lakh in just one year.

“Thural is a small sub-tehsil. There are one or two small government offices. The sale of fluid bottles worth Rs 3 lakh in a year is a matter of concern,” he said.

The volume of this clandestine trade can be gauged from a government reply in the assembly that 133 kg of “charas” or cannabis, 10 kg opium, 223 grams heroin, 6.03 kg ganja and 0.004 gm of smack was seized in the state in three months from April 1.

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Officials say over 60 per cent of the poppy and cannabis produce in Himachal Pradesh is smuggled out to countries like Israel, Italy, Holland and some other European countries. The remaining finds its way to Nepal or Indian states like Goa, Punjab and Delhi.

Over 70 foreigners, mainly Britons, Israelis, Dutch, Germans, Japanese and Italians, have been arrested under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, in the past five years.

The Magic Valley in the upper reaches of Malana, some 50 km from Kullu town, is known for cultivating “Malana Cream”, the prized hashish, a purified resinous extract of cannabis.

Easy availability of Narcotics in McLeodganj and its surrounding areas in Kangra district and Karsol in Kullu district have turned the areas into an addicts’ haven, say the police.

Image used for representational purpose. Image source: wikimedia Commons
Image used for representational purpose. Image source: wikimedia Commons

The crime rate under the NDPS Act is 7.7 per cent in Himachal Pradesh, compared to 2.8 per cent in the country.

O.P. Sharma, a former superintendent of the NarcoticsControl Bureau, said “alternative farming is the only way of controlling poppy and cannabis cultivation”

Citing field surveys, he estimates over 2,500 villages dotted across inaccessible valleys and lofty mountains in Kullu, Chamba, Mandi, Shimla and Sirmaur districts are known for growing cannabis and poppy cultivation.

Referring to Malana, known for the prized hashish, Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said the government would provide high-quality imported rootstock of apples to the locals so that they can opt for alternative and remunerative cultivation.

Cannabis is globally the most commonly used psychoactive substance under international control. In 2013, an estimated 181.8 million people aged 15-64 years used cannabis for nonmedical purposes globally.In other cannabis growing areas, he said the government would promote cultivation of exotic vegetables and flowers. (IANS)

  • Jagpreet Kaur Sandhu

    The drug usage growing like an epidemic! And can not be controlled just legally. Measures needed

Next Story

The Errant Son: Mir Murtaza And Al-Zulfiqar

Would the Bhutto charm, have worked on India? And had it been so, would the map of the Indian sub-continent today, have resembled the idea of a free market zone in South Asia, with porous borders?

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Mir Murtaza Bhutto with Shahnawaz Bhutto
Mir Murtaza Bhutto with Shahnawaz Bhutto
Tania Bhattacharya
Tania Bhattacharya

By: Tania Bhattacharya

India-Pakistan relations have hit a record low following the dastardly Pulwama Attack on a CRPF convoy in Indian administered Kashmir, on the 14th of February this year. Curiously, the Pakistan PM Imran Khan, made a statement a few days ago, endorsing the Indian PM Modi, and suggesting, that in case there was a re-election of the latter, the Kashmir issue may be finally resolved. This scenario is significant, given that both Imran and Modi, are perceived hardliners in their respective nations. As some South Asian policy watchers have noted, it is hawks like the two aforementioned heads of state, and not peaceniks, who are more likely to take large risks over bilateral issues involving the two neighbours, since if any of them is required to acquiesce, they cannot be labelled as anti-nationals. Peaceniks, their good intentions aside, are looked upon with suspicion in their countries, which accuse them of selling out.

 

These are the heady days of jingoist patriotism in South Asia, where Right Wing organizations seem to be faring much better than the other political alternatives; but there was a time not very long ago, when Southern Asia was in a sweet spot between Dictatorship and Democracy, where conducive factors facilitated the spectre of Left-Wing radicalism, in both India and Pakistan. Between the imprisonment of Pakistan’s democratically elected PM Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and the mysterious plane crash that killed President Zia ul Haq in 1988, a shadowy entity by the name of Al-Zulfiqar had emerged out of the pale, and rocked the Zia dictatorship, with its nuisance value. What were the origins of Al Zulfiqar, and who, was its chief executive officer?

The PIA Hijack drama
The PIA Hijack drama

We must retrace our steps to the early 1970s, when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was the Pakistan president. His eldest son, and second-born, Mir Murtaza, would build a lavish tent on the sprawling lawns of 70 Clifton, the Bhutto residence at Karachi. Inside the private sanctuary he had made for himself, the young lad would read the influential works of prominent Marxist revolutionaries like Lenin, Mao, and Che Guevara. The walls of his tent would be adorned with posters of world-famous figures, who had adopted Marxist techniques and applied them to their personal agendas. Murtaza had become deeply involved with the guerrilla warfare ethos of Socialist insurgents and quickly became a role model for his younger male sibling, Shahnawaz, junior to him by four years.

 

Sensing that the wayward, and obstinate nature of the older Bhutto was getting him into trouble with his high school officials and law enforcement, Zulfiqar had insisted, that Murtaza abandon his tent, and his Leftist reactionary literature, to concentrate on his school syllabus, so that the straight and the narrow could produce results for the latter. As soon as it became possible, and after consulting his wife Nusrat Bhutto, the President had packed off his enfant terrible to study in the United States, and then to England, where he hoped, that a new environment would change him. It was here, that Murtaza shone. A thorough academic, he researched upon and produced a dissertation, concerning the consequences of India’s nuclear program, on Pakistan. He developed the reputation of being a cad, and somewhat of a lady’s man as well, during his student years in London, where he was a regular sighting at nightclubs, with one or the other pretty girl, on his arm.

 

His father, had made the issue of the ‘Muslim Bomb’ an international one, arguing, that since the Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Marxist political spheres had their own, ultimate weapon of mass destruction, it was only fair that the Islamic world follow suit. Israel though not openly belligerent with the bomb, was suspected of being in possession of the technology to construct one, in 1966 itself. Moreover, it had refused to sign the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty). Pakistan, under his leadership, he had sworn, would ‘gift’ the Muslim world with its first nuclear weapon. The president’s (and later, Prime Minister’s) son, would broach the topic on an academic level, and make its knowledge, widespread.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with his third wife Husna Sheikh
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with his third wife Husna Sheikh.

Murtaza was yet abroad, when his father, by the time, the democratically elected Prime Minister of his country, was toppled in mid-1977, in a military coup, headed by General Zia ul Haq, who until the event, had been Zulfiqar’s handpicked Chief of the Pakistan Armed Forces; and a man, that the confident, and arrogant premier, termed his ‘monkey general’. In a letter, handwritten to her brother, Benazir had advised him to travel to the United States, to meet with American leadership, that were friendly with the Pakistan Peoples Party, to plead for assistance in toppling the dictatorship of Zia. Interestingly, she had told him to steer clear of a top Bhutto aide, Ghulam Mustafa Khar. This is testified by Lt. General Khalid Mahmud Arif in his book Working With Zia. Khar, an uncle of PPP ex-Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar (2008 – 2013), had been a confidante of Prime Minister Bhutto, who he faithfully plied to the home of Bhutto’s first, secret mistress, and then, legally married third wife, Husna Sheikh, on a daily basis.

 

From the United States, Mir Murtaza had decided that it was not judicious to return to a strife-ridden homeland, which was experiencing its umpteenth military rule. Instead, he had flown to Syria and then Libya, to garner support from Bashar al-Assad and Muammar Gaddafi respectively. The Assads and Gaddafi were supportive of the Bhuttos. Zia to them, was an American puppet that had been installed as a means to an end, that too, through an undemocratic and unpopular regime change. It was in Syria occupied Lebanon, that Murtaza had begun building up a guerrilla outfit, which he named, the PLA (Pakistan Liberation Army). Members from the PPP back in Pakistan, were herded off to the Middle East, for rigorous guerrilla training, that was imparted by the Leftist PFLP (Popular Front For The Liberation Of Palestine). When Mir Murtaza deemed that the time was ripe for ambushing Zia’s men in positions of power; the trained militia of PLA flew to Afghanistan, where they continued further arms training, awaiting an opportune moment, to cross into their homeland, using the mountainous, and lawless tribal routes of northern Pakistan, which flanked the Durand Line.

 

While in Kabul, Murtaza Bhutto decided to rename his outfit Al-Zulfiqar Organization, or AZO. Shahnawaz, the younger son of the jailed premier, joined his older brother and was imparted training in guerrilla warfare, and violent Marxist insurrection. When not wielding guns in army fatigues, the young volunteers and the Bhutto brothers, would watch Bollywood flicks to kill time.

 

Initially, all Shahnawaz wished to do, was to open a tourist agency in Pakistan, and live quietly with the Afghan object of his affections. But the restless circumstances that engulfed the young man, forced him to join Al-Zulfiqar, all the more so, as it had his older brother at its helm; a man he had much admired from the days of his youth.

 

One of the first acts of the AZO, was to try to blow up Zia-ul-Haq’s plane with a missile, from an Islamabad rooftop. It did not produce the desired result. Next, was the hijack of a PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) flight. It was flown to Kabul, where the hijackers stated that the plane and its passengers would only be released if ninety-one political prisoners from the PPP, were set free from incarceration in Pakistan. Zia’s response initially, was a “No”. But once it became eminent, that there were no international mediators to take on the case on behalf of Pakistan; especially once Assad and Gaddafi explained the dilemma to General Zia, the latter was forced to rethink his stand. By then, AZO had reduced the demand from ninety-one prisoners, to some fifty-four of them. The Pakistan general was forced to comply with Murtaza’s bargain, as it released the PPP detainees from various gaols in the country, who were then swapped for the PIA plane and its passengers.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with Indira Gandhi and Benazir
Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto with Indira Gandhi and Benazir.

The mastermind of the hijack, was a seamlessly trained Salamullah Tipu, who was seen waving his gun in the air triumphantly from the door of the airplane, after throwing down the bloodied and dead corpse, of one Major Tariq Rahim on the tarmac. Rahim was a close aide of the Zia administration. While Tipu took the blame upon himself, and the PPP back in Karachi, led by Benazir and her mother Nusrat, denied any knowledge or existence of the AZO, Mir Murtaza Bhutto continued to avoid Pakistani authorities, was never caught on camera during the hijack episode, and was declared a wanted criminal by the Pak judiciary, in absentia.

 

In his biography of the older Bhutto scion, The Terrorist Prince: Life And Death Of Murtaza Bhutto, author, student activist, and political henchman Raja Anwar, notes, that a paranoid Murtaza had ordered for the assassination of anyone who he feared would challenge his methods as head of AZO. A sizeable number of its members were apprehended from their homes, murdered, and dumped in shallow ditches. The same author states, how he himself, Shahnawaz, Mir Murtaza, and some other workers of Al-Zulfiqar, had received lodging, food, money, and military training, in New Delhi. The government of Indira Gandhi, a Centre-Left political organization in India that is recognized as the Indian National Congress, had housed and funded the Bhutto revolutionaries and their fighters, with an eye on ending the rule of the hated Zia. In the late 1980s, when Murtaza had made a stopover at Delhi, during one of his journeys abroad, he had personally met Rajiv, son of Indira, and her successor as the next premier of India, with a large, and impressive bouquet of flowers.

The AZO leaders and members resided in the outskirts of India’s capital, and led well-oiled, luxurious lives, while simultaneously receiving training to destabilize the regime of Zia ul Haq. I