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10x rise in heroin seizures, Gujarat tells drug panel, wants Coast Guard to track with drones

At meeting of Narco Coordination Centre, chaired by Amit Shah, Gujarat admits it's facing challenges. Karnataka & Maharashtra flag problem of foreigners overstaying their visa.

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New Delhi: The Gujarat government has admitted it is facing many “maritime challenges” owing to its long coastline and that heroin seizures have witnessed a ten-fold increase in the last two years. The government has now suggested that the Indian Coast Guard should think of using drones for coastal surveillance and interception. 

The suggestion was made in the third meeting of the apex level committee of Narco Coordination Centre (NCORD) organised by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in New Delhi, which was chaired by the Union Minister for Home Affairs Amit Shah, on 27 December. The minutes of the meeting have been accessed by ThePrint.

The Gujarat government also pointed out that foreigners visiting the country on medical visas should be closely monitored, while Maharashtra and Karnataka highlighted the importance of detecting and deporting foreigners suspected of drug trafficking and who overstayed their visa periods. 

The meeting was attended by the Union home secretary, secretaries of various ministries, heads of the central agencies concerned, directors general of paramilitary forces, as well as chief secretaries of all states and Union territories and directors general of state police.

The NCORD was set up by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs in 2016 for better enforcement of drug laws and effective coordination amongst anti-drug trafficking agencies. 

At the meeting, Home Minister Shah said a good performance was observed in terms of interception of maritime drug trafficking, especially in the western region. 

“It is estimated that more than 70 per cent of total drug trafficking is being conducted through maritime routes. The Indian Coast Guard, Indian Navy & Ports Authorities across the country may look into the issue of trans-national drug trafficking through the maritime route, as had been witnessed at the Mundra Port and evolve appropriate mechanisms to address the same,” state the minutes of the meeting. 

Also read: NCB constable, financial analyst, Army officer’s son among 22 held in pan India drug trafficking case

Detecting, deporting overstaying foreigners 

At the meeting, both Maharashtra and Karnataka requested that a mechanism be put in place to detect and deport overstaying foreigners, who are mostly “involved in drug trafficking”. Both states are in the process of establishing a detention centre for such individuals. 

The Punjab government, too, admitted that the drug menace had become a serious challenge for the state in the past few years. 

“Recently, more than 50,000 drug cases have been booked across the states and nearly 65,000 people arrested in this connection. Special teams have been formed to trace evidence against newer terror elements, corrupt police officials and even terrorists based in J&K involved in drug trafficking,” the minutes state.

Punjab’s principal secretary, home, also said it had formulated best practices against illicit trafficking of prescription drugs in 2012. “Drug licences of six pharmacies dealing in such trafficking have been suspended and licences for manufacturing of 12 such medicines have been curtailed in the state,” the minutes state.

The DGP of Karnataka, meanwhile, stressed on the issue of foreigners overstaying their visa periods in the state. 

“He informed that most of these foreigners, especially of African origin, came to the state on student visas and then chose to overstay. They indulge in some petty crime, get arrested and then overstay their visa periods, citing bail conditions. A mechanism needs to be put in place for swift deportation of such individuals,” read the minutes.

“It has been observed that these foreigners are mostly involved in drug peddling among the student community. Karnataka has taken steps to build a detention centre for foreigners overstaying their visa periods,” they added. 

‘Quantum jump in drug seizures in Maharashtra’

The DGP of Maharashtra informed the meeting that the state has been witnessing a quantum jump in the number of cases under the NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act every year. 

“The state saw a two-and-half time increase in heroine/cocaine seizures in the recent past. He requested that, in light of recent increase in Darknet seizures, the powers to conduct controlled delivery operations (the procedure to seize illicit drugs when detected) be devolved to state GPs (government pleaders),” the minutes stated. Darknet refers to hidden internet platforms enabling anonymous communication that are increasingly being used for drug trafficking.

“He also requested that a mechanism be put in place to detect and deport overstaying foreigners who are mostly involved in drug trafficking. He also informed that Maharashtra is in the process of establishing a detention centre for such individuals,” the minutes added. 

The Assam DGP highlighted the fact that terror outfits like NSCN (National Socialist Council of Nagaland) and KYKL (Kanglei Yawol Kunna Lup, of Manipur) were found to be indulging in narco-terrorism. 

“Information in this regard has been shared with NCB (Narcotics Control Bureau) and some cases have also been transferred to NIA (National Investigation Agency). DGP, Assam requested NCB to speed up the process of installation of vehicle scanners at key junctions to monitor inter-state traffic for any traces of drug trafficking. He also requested that such vehicle scanners be installed at the upcoming Arunachal Pradesh-Assam Highway,” the minutes read. 

‘Kasargod network, monitoring of tourists’

Delhi’s Commissioner of Police (CP) stressed on the need for the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers to control and monitor the manufacture of potassium permanganate (used for the making of some drugs, including cocaine). He highlighted the issue of lack of regulation as regards KYC for small courier operators who were increasingly being used by drug traffickers to ship contraband and drugs. 

About the “the Kasargod network” of drugs that operates in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the Delhi CP said it involved Tamils from Sri Lanka who must be tracked for overstaying beyond their visa periods. 

“Similarly, monitoring of tourists coming to Goa from Russia and some Central Asian countries is also necessary. Malana in Himachal Pradesh is visited every year during a particular season by a number of people from Italy and Israel, who have been found to be involved in drugs. The activities of such people should be monitored,” the commissioner said, according to the minutes. 

He further informed that a recent study has revealed that there are more than 80,000 foreigners who were overstaying their visa periods in India. Most of them are Afghans, Nigerians and South Africans, many of whom were suspected drug traffickers.

The National Investigation Agency informed the meeting that 16 NDPS seizures were made in 2021. Kuldiep Singh, DG, NIA said of these, 10 were observed to have a narco-terror angle in them. 

“Terror organisations such as LeT, Babbar Khalsa etc have increasingly been observed to be involved in narco-terrorism. More than 4,000 kg of heroin have been seized in 2021 alone. Many letter rogatories are pending execution. NIA, DRI (Directorate of Revenue Intelligence) & NCB are working in close coordination to tackle the menace,” the minutes stated. 

“He (Singh) requested that keeping in view the short time availability of social media-origin terror evidence, drug law enforcement agencies should involve the NIA in the initial stages of investigation itself, if there is any angle of narco-terrorism. Presently, the power to set up a committee to destroy the seized drugs is not vested with the Director General, NIA, which he requested to expedite,” the minutes said. 

(Edited by Saikat Niyogi)

Also read: How drugs are brought into India: In weddings cards, by drones and hidden in sea cargo



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