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NCB Reacts to Expose, Says Drugs Entering Punjab From Places Like Delhi

Subhajit Sengupta | CNN-News18 SubhajitSG

Updated: June 14, 2017, 3:41 PM IST
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New Delhi: The Amarinder Singh-led government came to power in Punjab on the back of a promise to eliminate the drug menace in the state. After taking over the reins, the government set up a Special Task Force and the Chief Minister handpicked Harpreet Sidhu, a tough-talking 1992 batch IPS officer with experience in anti-Maoist operations, as his main man for the war on drugs. An expose by CNN-News18’s Subhajit Sengupta, however, uncovered that the ground reality was different as drugs were readily available in the state and surrounding border areas. Zonal Director of Narcotics Control Bureau Kaustubh Sharma, talked to CNN-News18’s Subhajit Sengupta on the issue.

Here are excerpts:

Kaustubh Sharma (KS): The tempo was built during the elections as the Narcotics Control Bureau deployed district-wise team for the first time and we were able to recover drugs worth around nine and half crore rupees in 104 cases. We also took up three cases on diversion of Ayurvedic drugs in Amritsar. One of the major trends that came out was that the Tramadol abuse, which is not covered under the NDPS Act. This has caught on in Punjab and there are illicit channels to supply Tramadol into different areas. The areas which were previously addicted to poppy husk and opium to a large extend like Malava, had basically shifted to use of tramadol and synthetic drugs in a major way. This was an emerging trend. Over the last two months, Punjab has formed a Special Task Force and subsequently the police have become much more active. There seems to be a substantial dent in the open supply of drugs. However, the extent of the dent in the supply of synthetics, particularly Tramadol, is not very clear to me. What I can say is that smuggling of heroin, poppy husk and open has come down and the availability of the drugs has come down. Due to the unavailability, there has been a jump in the actual rates of these drugs, which are prevalent in illicit markets.

Subhajit Sengupta (SS): Sir, although the checks and balances by peddlers have increased the drugs are still available, especially heroin in Punjab and border areas. The rate right now is around Rs 3,500 per gram.

KS: Your personal experience, I do not dispute at all, because I would not say that the availability must have totally gone down because attempts are still ongoing and the drugs are being recovered within the hinterland and beyond the border, both. There is a consistent effort by the smugglers to get in drugs but of course since the last one year, the situation on the border is such that the smugglers are not finding it easy to get drugs into India. That is actually one big plus point because both ways the Indian deployment has improved and there is a heightened fear due to various security deployment. That has contributed to the reduction in the push of these drugs. However, drugs are still being recovered, only the lots have become smaller. There are consistent efforts to supply drugs by concealing them in tractors, bringing them in shoes, or throwing them over the fence from a certain distance. Those things we still continue to notice.

SS: What are the routes being used by drug peddlers to bring in these substances?

KS: I would not say that only the border is being used from the last couple of months. What we are seeing is that, a lot of African people based in Delhi, some of them, not all, have actually been selling drugs to people who are going from Punjab. The extent to which it has replaced the border smuggling is not clear, how the heroin is reaching and whether it is all indigenous - and there is to some extent, external heroine which is also being available and being pushed through these networks - is not very clear and would require a more a little more study by us.

SS: Drugs is almost seen as “NARCO terrorism”, given the fact that there is a clear, cross-border element in it. How do you read the situation and the entire money laundering process associated with it?

KS: Definitely there are players who are actually bigger but they do not touch drugs. That is one of the reasons why they like to keep it in the background and use different frontages and cut offs to deal and actually transact drugs across border or smuggle them. Those getting it from Delhi, are actually smaller level ones. They will not get drugs more than 100, 300 or 400 grams, may be up to a kilogram in some cases. So, the drugs which come into India or are able to get smuggled into India, definitely the payment happens, either through some kind of "hawala" network where the payment will be routed indirectly. But there are chances that this drug can go on to fund some anti-national elements, the evidence for which is not very clear as of now, but in some cases we know that hawala networks have been unearthed and the operatives who are actually doing the business across countries have also been used to somehow actually settle money.

SS: One last question sir, you have been speaking about how prescription drugs are not available over the clinic, rather it’s available through other routes, can you describe how?

KS: The prescription drugs, a couple of which are opium category, we were able to recover in illicit position, sometimes in godowns also. Our perception has been that there are leakages from the wholesalers at certain pockets. Not necessarily within Punjab, it could be Delhi, it could be Haryana, it could be Uttarakhand, it could be Uttar Pradesh also from where they are pushing this into illicit channels. People who have no licenses to buy these or people whose licenses have been cancelled but know how and from where to source them are bringing it here and we have information, we have shared it with the drug control department of certain manufacturing units within Punjab who are still clandestinely manufacturing these drugs and pushing it into the rural areas. This is now a big challenge for the Drug Control Department, because Tramadol and Tarpendadol are not covered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, and even if we catch some we do not have any provision under the NDPS Act where we can book it. It is only a violation of the Drugs and Cosmetic Act. So the agency to catch it is the Drug Control Department.

First Published: June 14, 2017, 3:32 PM IST
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