Even as the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) continues its crackdown on the drug menace in Bollywood, the anti-narcotics cell of the Mumbai Police, too, has taken action against several drug peddlers across the city this year. However, despite all the efforts, the drug menace in the city is unlikely to end as none of the state or central agencies have cracked down on the supply chain that provides drugs, said former senior police officers.
Till September, Mumbai Police had registered 2,720 cases of drug-related cases, including 2,503 cases of consumption. The police also seized drugs worth Rs15 crore, including 6.3kg of heroin, 7.3kg of charas worth Rs33 lakh, cocaine worth Rs10 lakh, 2.26kg of mephedrone worth Rs65.1lakh and 336kg of ganja worth Rs1.29crore.
The figures are much lesser as compared to the 10,394 drug-related cases registered last year till September. An officer said that there was a decline in the seizure and registration of cases primarily because of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown, which halted the flow of drugs into the city.
Despite the action against drug supply and consumption, law enforcement agencies did not achieve any major success in busting an entire supply chain or unearthing any links related to drug trafficking cartel operating out of Himachal Pradesh, Kashmir and Andhra Pradesh, where weed and hashish are produced.
“Hashish, which fetches a lot of money, is primarily controlled by the Russian drug mafia or the Israeli drug mafia, unlike marijuana whose production and supply is controlled by locals from different parts of the country. Till we do not dismantle these drug syndicates, the supply into the city will continue,” a senior Indian Police Service (IPS) officer said.
The chain will stop only when the source of the drug or supplier is busted, added the officer. “If a well-coordinated major crackdown against the drug’s supply chain or the core source unit of the drugs manufacturers is not taken, then the flow of drugs into the city will continue as always,” said former Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad chief, KP Raghuvanshi.
“A peddler has a very small unit of drugs. In fact, they are also victims. Most of them start as consumers and end up being peddlers. They peddle primarily to fulfil their own need to consume drug and also to make small monetary gains,” Raghuvanshi added.
Former director general of Maharashtra Police PS Pasricha also said that peddlers are the last unit in the drug chain before the consumers.
“They don’t run the drug business. Hence, the police agencies should focus more on busting the entire supply chain to stop the actual supply of flow of drugs in the city. But the city’s police often don’t prefer going after the suppliers as they work in a set format and are bound with too many restrictions – one of the biggest ones being the problem of jurisdiction.”
Raghuvanshi opined that even if the local ANC units set aside their regular duty of keeping a check on the local peddlers in the city and go after the supply chain or busting the source of the drugs then they face many challenges.
“If local police wants to take any action against any drug rackets in other state, then they would have to involve the local police of that state. Also, many drug rackets flourish their businesses are in connivance with the local police, which tip them off whenever police from other states arrive in their territory for crackdown,” Raghuvanshi said.
According to Pasricha, as local ANCs have limited resources and network, the central anti-narcotics agencies such as the NCB and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence are entrusted with the task of going after the supply chain.
In India, majority of the domestic as well as international narcotics syndicates, especially those trafficking cocaine and heroin, penetrate into metros such as Delhi and Mumbai.
In Mumbai, cocaine is ferried mostly by nationals of African countries, who are hired by Colombian and other South American drug cartels. Most cocaine peddlers and smugglers who have been arrested in Mumbai by ANC and NCB are from African countries, especially Nigeria, which is known to be the key transit point for Colombian drug cartels, said another IPS officer from Mumbai Police.
The other major drug heroin is trafficked into India from the cartels operating out of Afghanistan.
Though the NCB has not carried out any significant crackdown on the drug supply chains in Maharashtra in the past couple of years, the DRI has busted scores of drug manufacturing units being operated from chemical factories.
A senior DRI officer said that around 15 (synthetic) drugs manufacturing factories were busted by the agency in the past five years. In Maharashtra, DRI raided factories and make-shift set ups in Palghar, Raigad and Kolhapur districts in the past couple of years. KPS Malhotra, deputy director (operations), NCB, said, “Narcotics trafficking is a network crime. It involves two kinds of networking: tiered and flat. To bust a supply chain, the law enforcers keep on looking for the intelligence thread linked to the entire chain at any level, from consumers to the manufacturers or cartel runners. The majority of cartels, especially the domestic ones, keep on changing their methods, locations and members to stay off the radar of the NCB or other law enforcement agencies. The groups would set up some makeshift facilities in the interiors of the country, produce drugs and then dismantle everything. Despite this, efforts are always taken to derail their plans.”
However, a senior police officer from Mumbai Police said that said that the DRI’s operations too have remained restricted to domestic syndicates which manufacture synthetic drugs or psychotropic substances. Even they find it difficult to cut the supply chain of drugs that involves international cartels.
Another senior DRI officer said, “Crackdowns on the supply chain of traditional drugs such as cocaine or heroin, which are being trafficked into the country, is difficult. Developing information obtained from the domestic member of the racket and then taking on the supply chain or cartels operating internationally have a very low success rate as it requires the involvement of cross-borders and multiple national and international agencies. But there are mechanisms to share information across the border. UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) and Interpol generally help in information-sharing and ensure action against the cartel runner.”
Explaining the challenges faced by the law enforcers with respect to taking on the cartels operating domestically and trafficking synthetic drugs, the senior DRI officer said, “Busting cartels or factories manufacturing synthetic drugs is challenging because India’s chemical-pharmaceutical industry is quite huge and the monitoring is not rigorous. Drug prepared in factories does not require any state-of-the art equipment or major set up. Ephedrine and mephedrone can be prepared using basic chemicals and equipment as the raw materials required for their preparation are legally available in chemical and pharmaceutical industries.”
The data or intelligence sharing is another major problem owing to which drug cartels manage to remain off the radars.
“There is a considerable gab in the pace at which data or intelligence is shared among all the stake holders conducting involved in anti-narcotics tasks and the pace at which the cartels run,” the senior DRI officer said.
The central government has shown their intent to work in this direction and recently revamped the NCORD (Narco Coordination Centre). The government has also constituted an apex committee under the Union home secretary to support the coordination mechanism under NCORD to enable focused resolution of policy and operational issues.