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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.

  • 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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US Opioid Crisis : Deaths in 2016 from Drug Overdose ‘Highest in American History’, Says US Attorney General

Sessions said President Donald Trump's campaign pledge to end the opioid crisis remains a priority for his administration

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A bag of 4-fluoroisobutyrylfentanyl, which was seized in a drug arrest, is displayed at the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Testing and Research Laboratory in Sterling, Va., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)(VOA)

Washington, September 22, 2017 : U.S. deaths from drug overdose set a record of more than 64,000 in 2016, driven by an intractable opioid crisis, U.S. Attorney General said Thursday, citing preliminary government data.

Provisional data released last month by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) showed that there were 64,070 drug overdose deaths in the United States in 2016, up 21 percent from 52,898 the year before.

The NCHS is an arm of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The 2016 estimate “would be the highest drug death toll and the fastest increase in that death toll in American history,” Sessions said. “And every day this crisis continues to grow, as more than 5,000 Americans abuse painkillers for the first time.”

Opioids such as heroin and the synthetic drug fentanyl were responsible for most of the fatal overdoses, killing more than 33,000 Americans — quadruple the number from 20 years ago.

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U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington (VOA)

“More Americans died of drug overdose than died from car crashes or died from AIDS at the height of the AIDS epidemic,” Sessions said. “For Americans under the age of 50, drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death.”

Sessions spoke at an event in Charleston, West Virginia, a state with the highest drug overdose rate in the country. In 2015, West Virginia reported more than 41 overdose deaths per 100,000 people, compared with a national average of 16 per 100,000, according to NCHS data.

Sessions said President Donald Trump’s campaign pledge to end the opioid crisis remains a priority for his administration.

“I believe that the department’s new resources and new efforts will bring more criminals to justice, and ultimately save lives,” Sessions said. “And I’m convinced this is a winnable war.”

In March, Trump named New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a former presidential candidate, to head the newly formed President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis.

Last month, the commission urged the administration to declare the opioid crisis a national emergency.

“With approximately 142 Americans dying every day, America is enduring a death toll equal to September 11th every three weeks,” the commission said in an interim report.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price said that no declaration was necessary to combat the crisis, but White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later said Trump was taking the idea “absolutely seriously.” (VOA)

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Percentage of US College Students Using Marijuana at the Highest Level in 30 Years, Claims New Study

The increasing use of marijuana among college students deserves immediate attention from college personnel as well as students and their parents

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Marijuana grower and activist Juan Vaz checks marijuana plants in Montevideo, Uruguay, VOA

Washington, September 12, 2017 : Percentage of US college students using marijuana was at the highest level in 2016 since the past three decades, according to a study conducted by University of Michigan researchers.

The national Monitoring the Future follow-up study, funded by the the National Institute on Drug Abuse, showed in 2016, 39 per cent of full-time college students aged 19-22 indicated that they used marijuana at least once in 12 months, and 22 per cent indicated that they used at least once in 30 days, reports Xinhua news agency.

ALSO READ Substance abuse of Marijuana rises in the United States

Both of these 2016 percentages were the highest since 1987, and represented a steady increase since 2006, when they were 30 and 17 per cent, respectively.

Daily or near daily use of marijuana-defined as having used 20 or more times in the prior 30 days-was at 4.9 per cent in 2016; this is among the highest levels seen in more than 30 years, though it has not shown any further rise in the past two years.

“These continuing increases in marijuana use, particularly heavy use, among the nation’s college students deserve attention from college personnel as well as students and their parents,” John Schulenberg, the current principal investigator of the Monitoring the Future follow-up study, said on Monday.

“We know from our research and that of others that heavy marijuana use is associated with poor academic performance and non-completion of college.

In 2016, 30 per cent of those aged 19-22 perceived regular use of marijuana as carrying great risk of harm, the lowest level reached since 1980.

These findings come from the long term Monitoring the Future study, which has been tracking substance use of all kinds among American college students for the past 37 years. (IANS)

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Indonesia’s War on Drugs Follows Philippines’ Infamous Crusade to Curb Drug Use

Indonesia's Drug War by President Joko Widodo follows Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte way

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An Indonesian policeman checks crystal methamphetamine from China after a raid at Anyer beach in Serang, Banten province, Indonesia
An Indonesian policeman checks crystal methamphetamine from China after a raid at Anyer beach in Serang, Banten province, Indonesia. VOA
  • Idham Azis said he would not think twice to discharge police officers who were indecisive against drug trafficking
  • Human Rights Watch official Phelim Kline criticized the move

Indonesian president Joko “Jokowi” Widodo is once again using the language of “emergency” to ramp up the country’s war on drugs, in a move that seems in step with Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte’s infamous crusade in a neighboring island country.

Widodo recently ordered police to shoot foreign drug dealers who “resist arrest,” claiming the country was in a “narcotics emergency position.” Then, the Ministry of Law and Human Rights announced a plan to consolidate drug felons in four prisons. On Tuesday, Jakarta police chief Gen. Idham Azis said he would “not think twice” to discharge police officers who were indecisive against drug trafficking.

Widodo’s speech last week came on the heels of a drug-related police shooting in Jakarta, targeting a Taiwanese man who resisted arrest while trying to smuggle one ton of crystal methamphetamine into Indonesia.

Human Rights Watch official Phelim Kline criticized the move, writing in a statement that, “President Joko Widodo should send a clear and public message to the police that efforts to address the complex problems of drugs and criminality require the security forces to respect everyone’s basic rights, not demolish them.”

Meth panic

The target of President Duterte’s drug war is the cheap crystal methamphetamine known locally as shabu, and it is also the subject of Indonesian hand-wringing. The ton seized last month was the largest drug seizure in the nation’s history.

ALSO READ: What is the relation between Religion and Drug use?

The head of Indonesia’s narcotics agency, Gen. Budi Waseso, has been calling for a Philippines-style war on drugs as early as September 2016.

“The market that existed in the Philippines is moving to Indonesia, the impact of President Duterte’s actions is an exodus to Indonesia, including the substance,” Budi told Australia’s ABC News.

Indonesia enforces capital punishment for drug trafficking, which makes it an offense on par with murder and terrorism. It is estimated that about 70 percent of Indonesia’s prison population are low-level drug offenders.

“For me, there is a question mark over President Jokowi’s narcotics policy,” said Erasmus Napitupulu of Jakarta’s Institute for Criminal Justice Reform. “He always talks about the death penalty as a way to protect the nation’s children.” But in fact, he said, “the death penalty targets small drug couriers, which in many cases leads to unfair trials. Indonesian law has not been able to bear the burden of a fair trial,” he said.

Calls for leniency

“Of course we are concerned with the president’s rhetoric … to justify the war on drugs,” said Edo Nasution, national coordinator of the nonprofit Solidarity for Indonesian Drug Victims.

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“Evidence-based drug policy is what we need, not a policy that is only based on moral values or ideology,” said Edo, a one-time drug user who spent 13 years in Indonesian jails. “For example, there has been harm reduction programs in Indonesia for a long time and there is much scientific evidence as to the success of this approach.”

Harm-reduction refers to the practice of managing the risks of drug use, such as providing sterile needles, rather than trying to eradicate drug use.

Southeast Asia has long resisted trends toward leniency for drug users or traffickers, with countries like Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines resolutely maintaining harsh penalties that they say deters a major societal problem. As of last year, Thailand seemed like it might rethink the criminalization of methamphetamine because of overcrowded prisons, but there are no such signs in Indonesia.

Widodo’s last big anti-drug push was in 2015, two months after he was sworn into office when he executed 14 people for drug offenses.

“Far from having a deterrent effect, the number of drug-related crimes in Indonesia increased in the months after the executions were carried out in January and April 2015,” according to Claudia Stoicescu, an Oxford University researcher.

The increased resources devoted to drug-related arrests have drawn money away from rehabilitation centers that some say would better serve Indonesia’s nearly 1 million (according to the National Narcotics Agency) drug addicts. In the absence of such treatment, many poor addicts are turning to dubious herbal and faith-based cures that do nothing at best.

Erasmus wishes Indonesia would learn from the experience of the United States, which has gradually softened its approach to marijuana.

“American narcotics policy that criminally prosecuted drug users failed even without the death penalty. The result? The U.S. gradually changed the direction of policy toward decriminalization [of marijuana],” he said. “If Indonesia retains capital punishment as the main solution for drug issues, then I believe it is a political decision to preserve [politicians’] image, not to protect actual narcotics victims.” (VOA)