The sheer frequency and quantities of heroin seizures made by multiple anti-drug and investigative agencies has been alarming but officials point out that India is not the end-consumer for these narcotic substances, but rather a transit point en route to the West.
According to officials in the Narcotics Control Bureau, Taliban, which took control of Afghanistan last year, has been using Indian conduits as a transit point for heroin, one of the most expensive drugs, bound for western countries. This has led to massive rise in heroin seizures from India.
As per data from the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), from 2018 to 2021, the agency has seen a jump of close to 37,400% in seizures. These figures exclude other seizures by the DRI and a consignment missed by the agency in June last year, which was suspected to carry close to 6,000 kg of heroin.
In a recent case, DRI and the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad recovered 395 kg of heroin from a container at Pipavav Port. According to officials, threads were soaked in a solution containing heroin which was then dried, made into bales and packed in bags. The more important detail is that the 395 kg of heroin was lying at the port for the last five months, hinting at an inside hand.
Last year too, DRI had detected three cases of heroin smuggling in July from the Hyderabad airport, involving African nationals who were supposed to transport heroin to various countries, including South Africa and Australia. The total amount of heroin recovered in these cases was worth more than Rs 100 crore.
“In last one year, there have been multiple cases where heroin in tonnes has been supplied to India. As per the estimate, total 10,000 kg heroin has been supplied into India majorly through sea ports. Two major consignments, including one which was missed by the agencies in June last year, share 90% of the total seizures. Such massive amount of heroin has no consumers in India, it’s clearly for Western and European countries. India is just a transit point,” a senior NCB official told News18.com.
Mass Manufacturing of Heroin
According to the latest report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the production of opium, which is the main source of heroin, has hit all-time high levels since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out.
“The total area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan was approximately 224,000 hectares in 2020, which is an increase of 37 per cent or 61,000 hectares when compared to 2019,” the executive summary of the Afghanistan Opium Survey 2020 states.
“At 224,000 hectares, the area under cultivation was one of the highest ever measured,” it adds.
While opium was being mass produced, the smuggling and supply chains got clogged when the pandemic severed air and sea transport. Intelligence officials say that after the Taliban took cover Afghanistan, they have been clearing the stocks with help from Pakistan, and abusing India as a warehouse.
“India has no big market for such expensive drugs and it only gets consumed in few metropolitan cities. It seems that India has been picked up as a warehouse. But various investigating agencies have been alerted through a detailed report on the recent trend,” a senior DRI official told News18.com.