By John A Raju:
Even as women get raped in broad daylight and children rot in the pit of poverty and we languish behind many so-called backward countries in hygiene and health, our nation is vying for the top spot in a more glamorous arena – drug trafficking. The United Nations Office on Drug & Crime or UNODC, in its latest report has confirmed India’s strides in this field.
India has now emerged as a new hub for New Psychoactive Substances or NPS, whose attribute is that it helps in mimicking ecstasy. Earlier, we were just transits for such stuff, now we are leading sources for this latest brand of ‘legal’ weed. We have achieved self sufficiency in cryogenic technology through GSLV D5’s launch and now we are ruling the roster in NPS production too. Proud moment indeed. We are not just self sufficient, we are in fact title contenders along with our space rival China as leading sources of NPS in Asia. Sold widely via the internet, the proliferation of these drugs are posing great challenges.The problem with NPS is that these are legal drugs. Cool names like ‘spice’, ‘meow meow’ etc. attract the the youth to try them out as fun, low risk experiments. After all what is youth without some uninhibited experiments. However, the ability to alter their structure with relative ease and adulterate them makes them potent drugs. The number of NPS under UN control is 234 but the number in actual supply is currently 251, meaning there are more of these psychoactive drugs out there which aren’t under the UNODC control. Once a regulation on one type of drug comes, the manufacturers alter that drug to produce a new addictive substance, sometimes more dangerous than the previous one. And India is emerging as a leader for this new drug substance. In fact in the bygone decade, the third largest seizure of Ketamine (a prevalent group of NPS) was from India (9%). Our drug credentials do not end here.
India is also a top ten player in heroin trafficking. Our products are reaching Africa and Europe passing through many conduits on the way. Myanmar leads the heroin consumers list and being a very friendly host, we are always at hand to match the drastic demands of our eastern neighbour. And this has pushed us to the eighth position in heroin trafficking. We are also competing with Morocco, Afghanistan, Lebanon & Pakistan for the pole position in cannabis production. Cannabis, popularly known as marijuana, is a very popular drug here and the favourable climate in the north eastern regions also aids its production. In cannabis trafficking, we are ranked 15th by the UNODC. Yeah I know, we can do better than that.
Our metropolitan cities are leading the march. In fact, Delhi is becoming the new drug capital of India. Cops here are afraid to nab stooges as this results in rate spikes and increased adulteration of products. This has aided drug proliferation in Delhi. Turnovers of crores take place annually in our capital. With an understaffed narcotic division (just 70 men in the Narcotic Control Bureau for the city of Delhi), we can definitely improve our numbers in the coming years. Down south, Maharashtra turned in the largest number of consumers seeking drug de-addiction last year. UP and Punjab aren’t too far behind in the drugs race. Plastic pipelines are used to transport drugs over the Pakistan border via Punjab. A porous north eastern border facilitates easy outpour as well as inflow of cannabis and heroin through this region as well. Amidst all the gloom, one bright spot (if it can be called that), is that India has a very low rate of injecting drug use. However, that isn’t really much to cheer about.
The UNODC report has given us a timely wake up call. Aiming to be a superpower of this century, drug trafficking (which includes cultivation, manufacture, distribution and sale of drugs) is one of the myriad challenges that we have to face up to. The modern techniques and innovations available to these criminals today means catching perpetrators is becoming an ever increasing task, with the law enforcers struggling to stay one step ahead. We have to clear our drug mess out pretty efficiently before yet another unnecessary and unflattering tag is attached to our nation’s image. This is definitely one field we do not want to be numero uno in.