The latest high-profile seizure of banned drugs from a cruise ship off the Mumbai coast has once against brought the Narcotics Control Bureau in the spotlight. And allegations of “targeting” Bollywood aren’t far away months after it investigated alleged drug abuse in the fraternity in connection with the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput.
Questions have been raised in particular over the arrest and subsequent three-day custody of Aryan Khan, the son of superstar Shah Rukh Khan, despite no drugs found on him during Saturday’s raid on the Goa-bound ship of the Cordelia Cruises company. The NCB recovered 11 grams of charas from the remaining two accused, Arbaaz Merchant and Munmun Dhamecha. The bail plea of all three was rejected on Monday.
Since September last year, the NCB has registered 114 cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act and arrested more than 300 people, including 34 foreigners and a few names from the Bollywood. In all, drugs worth more than Rs 150 crore have been recovered from Mumbai, adjoining Navi Mumbai, Thane and other parts of Maharashtra.
The man leading the charge is NCB zonal director Sameer Wankhede and he categorically denies that the agency is specifically ‘targeting’ Bollywood.
“The NCB’s main agenda is to dismantle organised (drug) syndicates. We are moving in that direction. We have managed to dismantle 12 syndicates in Mumbai. Huge quantities of drugs have also been seized… It’s a lucrative illegal business. We are seeing foreigners involved in this trade. We have a special drive to identify them,” said Wankhede.
He said that “shaming” Bollywood is not the NCB’s agenda, but added that anyone found on the wrong side of law won’t be spared.
“I would not like to quote or pinpoint a particular case. All cases are important to us. All angles are important to us, including the financial one. We are taking action down to the peddler-level. We came to know that this (drug abuse) is a deep-rooted problem in Mumbai and Goa. We are fortunate to work for the NCB. It’s a national service, it’s an issue of national interest. We will fight it till the end,” Wankhede said.
Under Wankhede, the NCB has covered a lot of ground. In the last 22 months, over 100 kg of drugs — 30 kg charas, 12 kg heroin, 2 kg cocaine, 350 kg Ganja, 60 kg ephedrine and 25 kg MD (mephedrone) — have been seized from Mumbai and adjoining areas.
On an average, the narcotics bureau in Mumbai conducts 12 to 15 raids a month.
“We have seen a change in the consumption of drugs. In places like Mumbai and Goa, we see the consumption of MD has increased to an alarming level. We are fighting that. Many foreign cartels have surfaced and they are very violent. Many skirmishes have happened during raids. We are keeping our networks active and will dismantle such set-ups when found,” the NCB officer said.