Millennium Post

A new hub for drug peddlers

Delhi-NCR has become a drug trafficker's hub due to its convenient location, easy and cheap connectivity to various places, among other factors

With record breaking seizures of Narcotic substances by the Narcotics Control Bureau and various other agencies of the Delhi Police like the Special Cell and Crime Branch, Delhi has indeed become a hub of international narco traffickers who use the location of the country to peddle drugs from the far reach of the Savannah and send it to various First World countries. However, the drug peddling routes have more or less remained the same and we may thank our colonial masters for establishing the first drug route in the South Asian countries way back in the 1800's.

Capitalism, Crises and Cocaine

In the late 1880's the East India Company, rechristened as the thousand eyed monster with its tentacles spreading from the Orient to the Atlantic had reigned supreme. However, the excesses of the crown and the upkeep of the vast armies spread across the former colonies had taken its toll on the state coffers.
The Crown required a bailout programme and the Company obliged by exploiting the Chinese tea routes, but they had to offer something of equal value in return: Opium. The Company, set up massive opium producing factories in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Bengal and were successful in setting up an opium trail which stretched from Eastern India and found its way into China.

The competition was so intense that the British had to fight two opium wars with the Chinese to keep opium legal in China. However, the use of opium in South Asian countries had stretched way back to the medieval era, with Rajput clans consuming copious amounts of opium, before going into battle. The consumption of drugs including the marijuana plant was an innate character of various Shaivite communities, who modelled themselves on their god – Shiva. However, with the advent of European Capitalism to the South Asian countries, the bleak Dickensian world of factories, emaciated workers and drug abuse made their way into India. The communities who had hitherto consumed narcotic substances in measured doses were now consuming drugs to the rhythmic beats of the factory.

But then the party was soon over, as at the turn of the century in 1912, at the International Opium Convention at The Hague in Netherlands, a serious effort was made at curtailing the epidemic of opium which had ravaged communities across China, India, Japan, and various other South and South East Asian countries and eventually tried to ban the production and consumption of opium, morphine and heroin at an international level.

Nevertheless, like the prohibition of liquor in the 1930's demonstrated, the smuggling routes would just go underground and give rise to a criminal class which profits from the now illicit trade, shooting up the price of the banned contraband. The ban had an unintended consequence which India still grapples with today – the formation of the Golden Triangle and the Crescent.

The Triangle and the Crescent

The Triangle and the Crescent are the two drug routes used by drug traffickers to peddle drugs into the country. The Crescent is used by traffickers to smuggle heroin from Afghanistan. It eventually reaches Punjab's 550 km border with Pakistan. After it enters Punjab it makes its way to Delhi, some of it may be sold for local use but a bulk of it is exported to North America and West Europe using parcels and couriers.

Delhi also has seen a trend over the past several years as Narco-traffickers send India's drugs exports: heroin, opium, hashish and pharmaceutical drugs to Western Europe, Northern America including USA and Canada; and South East Asian countries.

According to latest data by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), the agency seized 225 kgs of various category of narcotics like heroin, cocaine, charas, pseudoephedrine, methaqualone and amphetamine as part of its 47 operations in the NCR region during this time, a rise of about 34 per cent as compared to the 167 kgs of such recoveries by the agency during the 2014-15 fiscal year. Meanwhile in the east of India, drug traffickers are still plying the Golden Triangle route but now the narcotics produced in Myanmar, Laos and Thailand, have been streaming in from Malda. "We are sandwiched between the Crescent and Triangle. We have seen during our investigations into drug cartels in the Northeast, that they are using Malda to transport opium and heroin into Delhi.

The cost of one kg heroin in Malda may be around Rs 7 lakh, it reaches Bareilly and escalates to Rs 10 lakh and eventually it comes to Delhi for a price of Rs 15 lakh and this finally goes to Punjab," claimed high level sources from Special Cell.

Delhi to the world

Delhi however remains the main hub of traffickers, as its connectivity to various North Indian states, and its relatively cheap air travel and lax security provides the ideal cover for Narco traffickers. In the recent past a string of drug mules mainly comprising of swallowers were arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau.
"In the last month alone the NCB has arrested ten Africans for drug trafficking. Out of them three were swallowers. Drug mules employ various tactics to swallow the pills. They use water proof plastic, condoms, or they cut out gloves used for surgeries and conceal the contraband in them," said NCB Delhi Zonal Director, Madho Singh.

In another high profile case in the month of February an international Synthetic drug racket operating out of the UK and Dubai had come to light, the racket criss-crossing across six continents, had Delhi on it's radar as former Commonwealth youth games athletes were roped in to become the modules of Delhi and Mumbai based agents. A total of 25 kilogram of mephedrone was seized by the four accused who were arrested by the Special Cell.

"The module used to use the ship routes. They would get the contraband from Eastern African countries and smuggle it into Maharashtra through Adis Ababa and eventually from the coastal cities it made its way to Delhi," said Deputy Commissioner of Police (Special Cell), Sanjeev Kumar Yadav.

The police is grappling with the epidemic of drugs which continues unabated despite the fact that the Border Security Forces have clamped down on the Golden Crescent, and the NCB goes on opium burning operations in the state of Punjab.

The supply from Latin American countries continues, and as President Trump builds that wall through Mexico to keep drug peddlers out of their country, the drugs will look towards the East.

"The security in America has become extremely tight because of which many of the drug peddlers have to opt for alternative routes. They choose to travel tens of thousands of kilometres to India, to sell some of the drugs for local consumption and later they repackage the drugs in small parcels and send it back to the Western countries for a profit," Yadav added.

But with the influx of sophisticated pharmaceutical drugs through internet pharmacy, and the lack of state of the art drug testing labs, various drug enforcement agencies took a back seat.

"It is extremely difficult to test synthetic drugs as we require a specialised lab to undertake those tests and ascertain the exact chemical composition as these drugs have an ever changing chemical composition. Even the names of the drugs keep changing, they are sometimes called DOB, DOC and then sometimes 2CI, it is hard to keep a track on these drugs," said an Intelligence officer from NCB.
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