The Supreme Court has directed the Centre and states to set up exclusive storage facilities for seized narcotics and drugs within six months.
A bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice Kurian Joseph observed that a mere 16 per cent of drugs seized gets destroyed while the remaining 84 per cent was probably recirculated into the market on account of “unholy connect between drug traffickers and enforcement agencies.”
While calling the drug menace extremely harmful to the society, the Supreme Court bench issued a slew of directions for storage and destruction of contraband seized by government agencies across the country on the suggestion of senior advocate Ajit Kumar Sinha, who assisted the court as amicus curiae.
The bench said the menace of drugs had reached alarming proportions and asked the governments to take effective steps to deal with it.
The bench observed:
“Studies have shown that the menace is deep-rooted not only because drug lords have money power and transnational links but also because enforcement agencies like the police and, at times, politicians in power help them in carrying on what is known to be a money spinning and flourishing trade.”
It also asked chief justices of high courts to appoint committees of judges to supervise the progress made by states in complying with its directions.
A possible nexus between Pakistani terror groups, local drug cartels and Indian officials was sensed by security officials in the wake of the recent terrorist attack on the Air Force base in Pathankot.
Security agencies suspect that the terrorists, who came in from Pakistan, took the help of drug smugglers to enter India through routes tried and tested by traffickers.
Indian security forces killed six terrorists holed up at the Pathankot air base, in an operation which went on four days from the early hours of January 2. This was the second time in the last five months that Pakistan-based terrorists have infiltrated border areas around Gurdaspur in Punjab. This is also an area notorious for drug trafficking.
According to government officials, if there is a crackdown on the drug smuggling, the routes used for infiltration will automatically be plugged.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had earlier said that the state was fighting a war on drug menace. Known for its rich agricultural prosperity, Punjab is now under a serious grip of drug abuse, owing to low agricultural production and massive farm debt.
According to media reports, at least 75 per cent of youths in Punjab have allegedly succumbed to drug addiction. Some of the narcotics include synthetic drugs like smack, brown sugar, heroin, amphetamines, ice, raw opium-based narcotics such as afeem, bhukki (poppy pod), doda (minced poppy husk) and a range of prescription drugs such like alprazolam, diazepam, among others.
For drug lords, Punjab is the easy target, as it shares a 553 km border with Pakistan. The techniques employed by them include drugs being tied up in bundles and inserted via fence in rubber tubes at the border area. Once the drugs are successfully smuggled from Lahore to Amritsar, then they go tourists destinations like New Delhi, Mumbai, Goa and Manali.
The profit margins associated with drug trafficking is so huge that 1 kg of heroin, which is priced between Rs 4-6 lakh in India, fetches nearly Rs 5 crore in overseas black market.
In a recent report submitted by the Border Security Force (BSF) to the Union Home Ministry, it said that in 2011, the BSF had seized heroin worth 67 kg, which rose to 313 kg and 324 kg in 2013 and 2014, respectively. The report also said that there are a number of couriers in the border regions of Punjab which are being paid Rs 60,000 per kg, and well-network groups ensure the drug consignments are safely cleared and smuggled.
However, it is not just Punjab, the deadly cocktail of opium farming, fake currency, a flourishing illegal arms bazaar, and a mob running wild, came to limelight recently in Malda, which the security forces have started referring to Malda as India’s own Afghanistan.
Not long ago, the paddy was used to be the engine of Malda’s economy, but now Opium farming is the mainstay. Here, locals are involved in large-scale opium poppy cultivation, because it gives them good money in a short span of time. It takes three months to mature and makes the field available to grow other crops for the rest of the year.
Experts blame the widespread drug trafficking in India as to US invasion of Afghanistan and their ineffective attempts to curb the opium menace. This lead to a growing opium trade through Pakistan and India. At the moment, the largest opium producer in the world is Afghanistan with its southern region Helmand alone accounting for 46 per cent of total drug production.