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December 14, 2017

Opium cultivation, drug trafficking and terrorism


Lalit Shastri

Recent heroin seizures in Amritsar, with the confiscated stuff originating from South-West Asia (SWA), show a clear trend that drug smugglers in Punjab are linked to drug cartels across the border in Pakistan and the money generated in India through drug trafficking is reaching the Taliban in Afghanistan where up to 85 per cent of opium cultivation is in territory under some influence of the Taliban, which has been declared a terrorist organisation by several countries.

Opium production is up and the cocaine market is thriving screams the World Drug Report 2017 released recently by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

In 2016, global opium production increased by one-third compared with the previous year and this was primarily due to higher opium poppy yields in Afghanistan, the biggest opium producing region in South-West Asia (SWA).

An earlier UNODC World Drug Report had focused attention new trafficking routes from South-West Asia to North America. It also pointed out that 98% of the heroin found in the Canada market originated from South-West Asia (SWA) and was mainly trafficked by air via India and Pakistan into Canada (according to UNODC, ARQ data for 2007). The report further said that organised crime groups were involved in heroin imports in Ontario and British Columbia.

Keeping in focus the latest UNODC World Drug Report, Newsroom24x7 reviewed the situation vis-a-vis opium production and drug trafficking closer home in India. The Central Bureau of Narcotics (CBN) is supposed to regularly upload the monthly Drug situation report on its official website for the sake of transparency. On visiting the CBN website today (26 July 2017) it was found that the monthly Drug situation reports were available only till March 2017 and the subsequent reports for April, May and June 2017 to provide statistics and details about significant events for India during the last three month period were missing from the public domain.

Significant seizures effected earlier but reported during March 2017 and information received from various State and Central drug law enforcement agencies till the end of March 2017 are contained in the last drug situation report put up on its website by CBN.

The Central Bureau of Narcotics (India) record of seizures in March 2017

2 March 2017 – Narcotics Control Bureau seized 8.93 kg of Amphetamine at Madurai. The seized drug was being taken to Malaysia. (As a result of the United Nations 1971 Convention on Psychotropic Substances, amphetamine became a schedule II controlled substance, as defined in the treaty, in all (183) state parties. Consequently, it is heavily regulated in most countries. Some countries, such as South Korea and Japan, have banned substituted amphetamines even for medical use. In other nations, such as Canada (schedule I drug), the Netherlands (List I drug), the United States (schedule II drug), Australia (schedule 8), Thailand (category 1 narcotic), and United Kingdom (class B drug), amphetamine is in a restrictive national drug schedule that allows for its use as a medical treatment).

More seizures

  • 6 March 2017 – 6 kg of Hashish, originating from Nepal was seized by SSB/NCB in Lucknow.
  • 9 March 2017 – there was another seizure of 38.25 kg of Charas at Bareily in Uttar Pradesh by NCB. This consignment also originated from Nepal.
  • 11 March 2017 – NCB had seized 2.80 kg of Cocaine brought from Brazil.
  • 16 March 2017 – NCB seized 360 gram Methaqualone in Delhi. It was being trafficked to Australia (The active ingredient in Mandrax tablet is Methaqualone, which is known to act as a sedative and hypnotic. It is banned in many countries).
  • 17 March 2017 – NCB, confiscated 650 grams of opium in Delhi, It was being taken to Canada.
  • 23 March 2017 – NCB seized from Kolkata 9400 bottles of Phensedyl Cough Syrup (Phensedyl contains Codeine, a Narcotic Substance). This consignment was for Bangladesh.
  • 25 March 2017 – the Border Security Force and NCB confiscated 980 grams of Heroin at Amritsar. The source of this was South-West Asia (SWA).
  • 27 March 2017 – BSG and NCB seized 857 grams of Heroin originating from SWA at Amritsar.
  • 28 March 2017 – NCB, Bangalore seized 11.82 kg of Ephedrine heading for Malaysia (Ephedrine is listed as a table-I precursor under the United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances).
  • 25 March 2017 – BSF and NCB, Amritsar, seized 1.36 kg of Heroin and 60 gram of opium from SWA
  • 31 March 2017 – NCB again seized at Amritsar 2 kg of Heroin (origin -SWA)

South-West Asia, Taliban and terrorism

The heroin seizures in Amritsar, with the confiscated stuff originating from SWA, show a clear trend that drug smugglers in Punjab are linked to drug cartels across the border in Pakistan and the money generated in India through drug trafficking is reaching the Taliban in Afghanistan where up to 85 per cent of opium cultivation is in territory under some influence of the Taliban, which has been declared a terrorist organisation by several countries.

Opium Cultivation

Cultivation of opium poppy In India is spread across 22 Districts 102 Tehsils in the States of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. Inquiry has revealed that hundreds of opium farmers who were licensed in the opium crop year 2015-16 were declared ineligible for the crop year 2016-17 for producing less than average crop or for adulterating their output.

When contacted, sources in the office of the Narcotics Commissioner at Neemuch explained short production and the problem of adulteration, by pointing out that a part of the legally produced opium is purchased at a premium by those linked with drug cartels and it gets smuggled out from the producing areas like Neemuch. Mandsaur, Jaora and Garoth in Madhya Pradesh, Chittorgarh, and Bhilwara in Rajasthan. An official source confirmed that the situation continues to remain the same in Uttar Pradesh and Rajsthan State. He said cases are continuously being registered under the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) against the offenders.

Global Cocaine Market

The latest UNODC Report also points to the expansion of the cocaine market, such that from 2013-2015, coca bush cultivation increased by 30 per cent mainly as a result of increased cultivation in Colombia. Following a period of decline, there are signs that cocaine use is increasing in the two largest markets, North America and Europe.

The spectrum of substances available on the drug market has widened considerably, the UNODC Report says. The opioid market in particular is becoming more diversified, with a combination of internationally controlled substances like heroin, and prescription medicines that are either diverted from the legal market or produced as counterfeit medicines. NPS continued to evolve such that by 2015, the number of reported substances had nearly doubled to 483 compared with 260 NPS in 2012.

In 2014, transnational organized crime groups across the globe were estimated to have generated between one fifth and one third of their revenues from drug sales. Mobile communications offers new opportunities to traffickers, while the darknet allows users to anonymously buy drugs with a crypto-currency, such as bitcoin.

Typical buyers

The typical buyers are recreational users of cannabis, “ecstasy”, cocaine, hallucinogens and NPS.

Hepatisis C and HIV

The UNOCD Report finds that hepatitis C is causing the greatest harm among the estimated 12 million people who inject drugs worldwide. Out of this number, one in eight (1.6 million) is living with HIV and more than half (6.1 million) are living with hepatitis C, while around 1.3 million are suffering from both hepatitis C and HIV. Overall, three times more people who use drugs die from hepatitis C (222,000) than from HIV (60,000). However, the Report stresses that despite recent advances in the treatment of hepatitis C, access remains poor, as treatment remains very expensive in most countries.

In 2015 about a quarter of a billion people used drugs. Of these, around 29.5 million people – or 0.6 per cent of the global adult population – were engaged in problematic use and suffered from drug use disorders, including dependence. Opioids were the most harmful drug type and accounted for 70 per cent of the negative health impact associated with drug use disorders worldwide, according to the latest World Drug Report, released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

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