Growing drug trade dwarfs sleuths

Monday, 20 January 2014 - 11:03am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA
As international syndicates get smarter, serious questions are being raised about the police's capacity to tackle them.

The arrest of a top corporate executive for possession of cocaine last week, has yet again exposed the easy availability of narcotics in Mumbai and heightened concerns that the city is turning into a major delivery point.

“If one knows the network it is easy to get any drug any where from Colaba to Versova,” said a senior Crime Branch officer. It’s not just the local panwala from where drug users get their fix, today social networking sites have become channels for sales and supply.

Anant Vardhan Pathak, 31, has been charged for possession of 4.5gm of cocaine found in his hotel suite recently.

Officials say consumption of high-end drugs in the country is highest in Delhi, Mumbai and Goa. Cases of drug use in Mumbai, particularly among the young, need no enumeration. But they raise the question whether the authorities are able to tackle the malady.

“It is an open secret. Those who want the drugs get them easily, which means that there is a well-established demand-and-supply chain. But the police have been unable to do anything about this,” said a source.

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and the Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC) of the Mumbai police, the agencies responsible for dealing with drug trafficking, agree the stringent laws in place are helpful. However, they suggest that their task has become more difficult over the past few years and that they may not be sufficiently equipped.

“Most of the drugs, especially cocaine, are smuggled into the city by people from Nigerian, Ghanaian and Mozambican nationals. But people from Mexico and Bolivia too have got into the business, The international syndicates and the transit methods have become more innovative and clandestine,” said a senior official of the NCB.

Another aspect was the drug war in Goa some months ago, where some Nigerians clashed with the police and many of them were pushed out of the state. “A majority of these Nigerian peddlers have relocated to the far suburbs like Mira Road and Bhayandar, on the outskirts of Mumbai,” said a senior official in the ANC. These peddlers are now supplying the substances to small-time operators across the city.

Mumbai developed into a major transit point due to its proximity to the Golden Triangle (Laos-Myanmar-Thailand) and the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan-Iran-Pakistan) and the city’s connectivity by air, sea and land.

While most of the heroin comes from the Crescent countries, cocaine is routed through West Africa. Africans even hire Indians to carry the drugs.

“The air route has become a popular channel for traffickers across the world. Air is quicker and the risk is comparatively less,” said an official of the ANC.

In 2012, the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) seized drugs worth Rs35.64 crore at the Mumbai airport.

Last year, the value of drugs seized had escalated by two and a half times, touching Rs85.14 crore.

It’s mostly cocaine that is smuggled by air, concealed in clothing, socks and sandals, even lunch boxes, said an official from the Anti-Narcotics Cell. Among the party drugs detected are LSD and Ecstasy.

In most cases, the detection agencies have found that women and children being increasingly used as carriers. “In 70 per cent of the cases, the carriers were women. In many cases we detected capsules containing the narcotic drugs were swallowed by the carriers,” said Milind Lanjewar, additional commissioner, AIU.

Drugs like ketamine along with some party favourites are smuggled out from Mumbai to destinations like Malaysia, Thailand and Nepal.

Detection agencies complain that they have insufficient personnel and equipment to check the rising trafficking of drugs.

“Even the dog squads are terribly strained,” an official explained. “If the networks are to be cracked, these units will have to be strengthened,” said an official.

A new high for Mumbai?
The Narcotics Control Bureau and Anti-Narcotics Cell of the Mumbai police say drugs trafficking has got bigger and their task has become more difficult as they are not sufficiently equipped

The air route has become a popular channel for traffickers across the world, In 2012, the Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) seized drugs worth Rs35.64 crore at Mumbai airport. Last year, the value of drugs seized shot up nearly two and a half times to Rs85.14 crore.

Also, after the drug war in Goa some months ago, a majority of the Nigerian peddlers have been pushed out of the state and have relocated on the outskirts of Mumbai

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