New Delhi : In an affidavit filed in a suo moto proceeding, the Centre submitted that the recent trends seen by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) in detection of drugs trafficked internationally through the sea and air routes, and gave a comprehensive picture about the steps being taken to contain the drug menace in the country.
“Between September 2021 and September 2022, 77 cases of drug seizure (mostly hydroponic marijauna) have been detected by the Postal Appraising Section of Mumbai Customs alone,” said the affidavit filed by the Centre through the Narcotics Control Bureau. In all these cases, it said: “The consignments were originated from USA, UK, Canada and other western sectors where marijuana has been legalised.”
The affidavit indicated that 19 states in the US have legalised recreational use of marijuana while others are in the process of legalising its use beyond medical use. “The easy availability of the product is providing opportunity to the people who can be lured for sending or trafficking the drug where there is demand of such products,” the affidavit said.
The affidavit came in response to an October 18 order of the Supreme Court in a suo moto proceeding where the court was concerned over the seizure of nearly 3,000kg of heroin at Mundra port in September. While the court sought details of probe into this seizure, the Centre was asked to detail out steps to prevent such incidents in the future.
“Smuggling of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances (NDPS) into the country through sea route has increased manifold in recent times. In most of such cases, commercial containerised cargo has been misused as a cover to bring the drugs into the country,” the affidavit said.
Most such seizures were found on the western coast. As regards the seizure at Mundra port, the matter is under probe by the National Investigation Agency that has found the involvement of two terrorist groups – Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen and Hizbul Mujahideen.
“The seizures of the narcotic drugs such as heroin being smuggled on boats/ships emanating from the Gulf region and Iran in the recent past, coupled with Covid-19 restrictions on air/land routes suggest that the sea route will be exploited by the drug traffickers in the future also,” the Centre said, adding that the huge volume of this trade makes it “impractical” to check all shipping consignments.
Investigation into the heroin consignment at Mundra port has revealed a clear Pakistan connection. The Centre said, “During investigation it was revealed that international drug traffickers hailing from Afghanistan and Iran, with the help of their handlers from Pakistan, smuggled huge quantities of heroin into India by concealing consignment in semi-processed talc stone.”
Further, the Centre informed the top court that tracking drug consignments being trafficked through roads has yielded in seizure of 45.6 tonnes of marijuana in 2020-21 from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh and the northeastern states.
International passengers are being profiled to detect suspicious travellers, the Centre said. In the majority of drug seizures involving international passengers, the DRI noticed the bulk to be those arriving from African countries, mostly on medical visas.
As multiple law enforcement agencies such as NIA, DRI, the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC), and the NCB are involved in detection and seizure of drugs, the Centre underlined the need for greater exchange of data and intelligence between the agencies. “The law enforcement agencies need to develop advance operational tools and share live actionable intelligence/information to assess the nature of drug trafficking through key sensitive areas and border points.”
An emerging area of concern, the Centre highlighted, was the use of cryptocurrency in the drug trade in which law enforcement officers need training. “In coming times, need of departmental wallets for purpose of seizure of crypto currencies recovered in relation to drug cases, training of officers in the field of dark web and crypto currencies require better focus.”