Dialogue  April-June 2007 , Volume 8 No. 4

Malice of Drugs Dealings and its Tactical Circuit of Transaction

Panchanan Bhoi

In the onset of the nineties, media began to publish articles and discuss enigma related to drugs almost every day, but with a new thrust in the issue. Earlier the drug issue had been solely seen as a law enforcement subject, ignoring social factors. The most commonly used illicit drugs are heroin, ganja, hashis oil, buprenorphine, nitrazepam, phenergan, diazepam, mandrax, amphetamine, morphine, fortwin, acetic anhydride, etc. Use of brown-sugar and ganja gained impetus as it is relatively cheaper than other drugs. The street children are considered to be more vulnerable to these drugs that has persisted for almost two decades in major Indian cities. They are used to being addicted to various products like shoemaker glue, spirit, petrol, cough syrups, various sleeping tablets, whitener, smack, etc. But the smack and brown-sugar users are youngsters and adolescents from lower classes. Later on it attracted street children, middle class youth, etc. Further, the appearance of charlatan deeply altered the market, increasing the number of salesmen, buyers and sale points concurrently. The upshot of this drugs trafficking is the emergence of thieves devoted to crime against property like robbery, thefts, etc. These new drug dealers are responsible for an increase in violence within the drug market. So it cannot be ignored that there is increase of homicides in the society due to this drug, although there is no studies about homicide rates linked to the use of drugs.

For drugs merchandising the brawny nations like the United States still remains a very minor market for heroin from India, whether it has been produced or transited through India. Heroin produced in India is trafficked to international locations, although the total amount is negligible compared to the quantities of heroin produced in Burma, Afghanistan, or Colombia. The most common type of heroin produced in India, brown sugar, has only a limited market outside the region. However, seizures of shipments en route to and within Sri Lanka suggest that there is a market for heroin produced in India. India is a transit route for illicit heroin, hashish, and morphine base from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, and to a lesser extent, Nepal. Despite intensive border surveillance between India and Pakistan, opiates continue to enter India overland from Pakistan. Sea and air routes are also used to bring heroin from southern Pakistan. An unknown percentage of this heroin remains in India, but some also transits India en route to international destinations, especially from New Delhi or Mumbai by couriers travelling on commercial airliners. Diminutive evidence is available on heroin and hashish smuggling by sea, although this is alleged to occur. Hashish, produced in India, is also smuggled to North America, although the destination is generally reported as Canada and not the United States. In August 2000, 2 metric tons of hashish from Nepal was seized in India, which was reportedly destined for the United States. Over the past few years, Sri Lanka has emerged as an important destination for heroin transiting through and from India, and heroin seizures in the southern areas of India have increased sharply. The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) reports that in 2001 approximately 200 kilograms of heroin bound for Sri Lanka were seized. Although the Indian-origin heroin or other drugs trafficking to the United States is negligible but trafficking in Indian-produced methaqualone to Southern and Eastern Africa continues. In March 2001, the NCB seized 400 kilograms of mandrax or methaqualone tablets in Mumbai after searching an export container destined for South Africa. The total methaqualone seizure in 2001 was 1,984 kilograms. But cannabis smuggled from Nepal is mainly consumed within India, although some makes its way to western destinations.

Trafficking groups operating in India include nationals from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nepal. Even though India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh do not exist as one country, family connections remain strong in the region, which provide a network of contacts that facilitate cross-border trafficking. Nigerian traffickers are present in India, particularly in Delhi. In some instances, Nigerian-controlled couriers transit through India enroute to international destinations. This is apparently an effort to avoid law enforcement authorities at the destination airport, as passengers arriving from major drug-producing or transit countries are subject to greater scrutiny. Pakistani officials continue to arrest couriers, who are ticketed to India, at airports in Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad. In other cases, West African traffickers reside in India and primarily sell heroin and hashish in the country to other Africans and Indians.

There are only two authorized border crossings on India’s northeastern border with Burma, but the border is fairly porous. This region is connected to the rest of India by only a 32-kilometer strip of land, while bordered by Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Burma. This region is home to a number of insurgent groups, while these groups are not involved in drug production or drug trafficking, but they may profit from some aspects of the drug trade. For example, several groups in Nagaland, including the Isaac-Muivah and Khaplang factions of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland, reportedly tax and extort money from traffickers in return for protection or the right to conduct traffic in drugs. The People’s Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak, a leftist group headquartered in Manipur, and the All Tripura Tribal/Tiger Force in Tripura are other groups that reportedly profit from extortion and may facilitate cross-border drug trafficking. Ethnic Tamils in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu are involved in trafficking between India and Sri Lanka. Heroin destined for Sri Lanka is regularly seized in India and in the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka. Some reports suggest that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) receives funding from drug trafficking, although no direct nexus between the LTTE and drug trafficking has been confirmed. Indian intelligence agencies indicate that the organization headed by the well-known Indian criminal Dawood Ibrahim, is also involved in drug trafficking and money laundering activities.

The fence on the Tripura-Bangladesh border being erected to block infiltrators is now likely to hurt a bustling illegal trade. That’s not just fuelling the local economy and fattening chemists in the border state but spawning a narcotics network. From this area, since January to end of April 2005, the Border Security Force (BSF) has seized marijuana worth Rs 90.75 lakh. Besides that, the high-inducing codine-laced cough syrup called phensedyl, which is consumed in Bangladesh as an intoxicant valued Rs 8.34 lakh has been confiscated. The cough syrup is priced at Rs  46.50 for a 100 ml bottle in India. After packing, this has been trafficked to Bangladesh as it fetches Rs 120 in that country.  Two consignments meant for Bangladesh valued in international market at Rs 3 crore were seized. The construction of 736-km length fence, that is half complete, is now being accelerated. Bangladesh Rifles was against the fence because some of its personnel were making a lot of money from the illicit trade. Smuggling of narcotics is a booming business here and due to this a BDR posting in this area is considered very lucrative in that country. This trade is so lucrative that a local pharmacy owner goes all the way to the Grand Hotel in Kolkata for a haircut. Another visits a five-star hotel every weekend for gambling. The local pharmacy owners are splurging money made from selling tranquillisers like valium 10, alzolam, alprazolam and diazepam along with cough syrups like corax and phensedyl. This business is not totally new, as Indian medicines were always smuggled into Bangladesh since long. In mid-1970s, when Tripura barely had a population of 20 lakh, an Agartala chemist was facilitated by manufacturers Park Davis for selling the greatest amount of medicines in the country. But now the trade is moving to cannabis. Rows of ganja plants in Konabon, Devipur, Madhupur and Batodola are tended just for consumers in Bangladesh. Therefore ganja cultivation is a flourishing trade in west Tripura, with the outcrop worth crores in international market.

There is no information about the activity of big traffickers in the local market. Policemen and dealers say that the big ones are more active in the cocaine transport to other countries. The local market is so fragmented that it is not convenient for them to invest locally. The arrival of crack is perhaps the isolated factor that contributed most to this situation. Although some of the tactics of police and custom officials prevented the work of big criminal organisations to operate it within the Indian cities but still it has not prevented big drug traffickers from using their base outside the country. Very often, the international airports and shipping yards or ports are used with the help of tainted official to send drugs to Europe or the Middle East countries. This is done particularly through the persons who carry or swallow small quantities of the substance. Those individuals do not act autonomously and almost all of them work for the big organisations based in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Arabian and African countries.

Out of the sale of only 200 grams of cocaine the dealers can cover the price of one kilo sold by the intermediary who left it on consignment. They can make a profit of 500 percent, partly through mixing cocaine with cheaper substances. Half of the profit goes to the man in front or trafficker, thirty percent to the manager, who does the accounts, and various percentages to others, who remain at the trading points and distribute the small amounts of cocaine to the young dealers who finally take the dope to the customers. The latter are those most commonly arrested and prosecuted. Most of the time they just receive the consignment to sell, for which they become entirely responsible. They may sell them after increasing their weight with cheap substances in order to raise profits; they may consume most of them, which makes them prone to be killed by the trafficker. The death penalty is the sentence for those who repeatedly do not pay him or who excessively crumble the merchandise. The police seize large quantity of drug every year but that is minimal percent of the trafficking. Thus one can deduce annually how many tons of the product is transported in and out of the country through various modes of channel. The drug trafficking has never been a social problem in India until the late eighties. Then heroin and cocaine started to be negotiated on a large scale in the country, following the different routes chosen by the mafias to flourish their business. Nowadays, it is linked to a new culture of money, power, violence and consumerism. As elsewhere, its trade became an enormous source of quick profit and violence. Secondly, today the drug trade has become synonymous of warfare at the end of the traffic network.

India will continue to be a major supplier of drugs or chemicals diverted to the illicit market. The country actively seeks to control diversion and cooperates effectively with other countries. However, drug traffickers are expected to find ways to evade law enforcement authorities, which may require enhanced monitoring of the large trafficking industry. India’s large population is at risk for increased drug abuse due to easy availability and low cost of both domestically produced drugs and drugs smuggled into the country from Burma, Nepal, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Drug use pattern has become quite common among small but a vulnerable group. In terms of impact it is quite high as the users are youth and adolescents. Drugs seizure patterns some how do not reflect the drug use pattern of the youth. Easy availability of drugs throughout the country leads to increase in the use of drugs. These are the areas where emphasis has to be placed.


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