India, a hub for illicit narcotics trade : INCB

Written by ASHOK B SHARMA | New Delhi | Updated: Feb 26 2010, 19:48pm hrs
The Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) in its recent report for the year 2009 has said that India has become a hub of drugs sold through illegal internet pharmacies where orders placed abroad are dispatched to buyers using courier and postal services.

Couriers and postal services have got a boost on account of the recent trends in globalisation. India, responding to this has said that its Narcotic Control Bureau in cooperation with the state government is busy cracking down the culprits. The problem with India is that it is located in the midst of the Golden Triangle and Golden Quadrilateral.

The Indian minister for social justice, Mukul Wasnik said : the drug abuse is a complex issue. Since long we had put in places strategies to tackle the situation. The INCB data does not provide much insight. It may be used as an input. It says that in India 72.2 million people have drug addiction. We are commissioning a survey through National Survey Organisation (NSSO) to arrive at a right figure. The NSSO has begun its work in Manipur, Punjab and Maharshtra.

The INCB in its report has made critical references to the developing world and has been mild on the developed world. Whatever may be the present scenario as per the report, the origin and the history of the illegal drug trade hold the colonial rulers responsible for the situation. However, the South Asia representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC), Cristina Albertin said that the INCB report was unbiased.

According to the INCB report seizures of amphetamine-type stimulants show that trafficking in these substances are increasing in South Asia. The region has also become a location for their manufacture. A number of clandestine methamphetamine laboratories have been discovered in India in recent years.

Trafficking in cannabis remains widespread throughout the region. In 2008, Indian authorities seized 103 tonne cannabis herb and 4.1 tonne cannabis resin. In Bangladesh, 2.3 tonne cannabis herb were seized, in Nepal more than seven tonne and in Sri Lanka more than 37 tonne. The widespread abuse of pharmaceutical preparations containing narcotics, namely codeine is an ongoing problem in Bangladesh.

According to the report, low-grade heroin (brown sugar) on the Indian illicit was suspected of having been diverted from illicit cultivation. However, the Indian authorities claim an increasing proportion of heroin seized in the country originated in Afghanistan, which indicates that India is being used as a transit area.

The smuggling of heroin into the Maldives is an ongoing problem and has contributed to a rise in drug abuse. Pharmaceutical preparations containing benzodiazepines are among the most widely abused in Bhutan.

The sources of origin of these preparations are suspected to be in India. Bangladesh is vulnerable to ATS and pharmaceutical preparations and source for preparations containing pseudoephedrme trafficking. In Nepal there is trafficking of cannabis. Afghanistan remains by far the largest illicit producer of heroin and other opiates and is becoming a major producer of cannabis.

The INCB report also said that after tremendous progress in the past, countries in the east and south-east Asia faced setbacks in reducing illicit opium poppy cultivation in 2008, with a 3.3% increase compared to the preceding year. Trafficking in methamphetamine and the illicit manufacture of MDMA (ecstacy) also increased. For the first time in recent years, the illicit manufacture of gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) was reported.

In China new types of products containing mixture of synthetic drugs like methaqualone and ephedrine were seized in Inner Mongolia. Mixtures of GHB, MDMA and ketamine in bottles labeled traditional cough medicine were seized in Guangxi. In China 44 laboratories manufacturing illicit drugs were seized in 2007.

South-East Asian women are used in drug trafficking. Methamphetamine abuses are found in China, Phillipines, Thailand. Cannabis abuses are found in Phillipines, Japan, Mongolia and South Korea.

According to the INCB report, after peaking in 2007 illicit cultivation of opium poppy and decreased in 2008 and 2009 in West Asia. The magnitude of the grug problem poses a serious threat to the political, economic and social stability in West Asia and other regions. As opiates are smuggled mainly through Iran, Pakistan and Central Asia, these countries are affected by a wide range of problems such as organized crime, corruption and high demand for opiates. As a result, Iran has the highest rate of opiate abuse worldwide, the report said

Illicit cultivation and smuggling of cannabis are found in Iraq and Bekka valley in Lebanon. New market has emerged for cocaine in West Asia. About 25.4 kg cocaine from South America was seized in Jordan in the first four months of 2009. Trafficking and abuse of amphetamine-type stimulants is increasing in West Asia, particularly in eastern Mediterranean and the Arabian peninsula. West Asias share of global seizures of synthetic drugs, including Captagon, amphetamines and MDMA has risen from one per cent to 25% in the recent years.

In Central America and the Caribbean drug trafficking is often protected by local gangs (maras) that have established criminal associations with Mexican drug cartels. Jamaica continues to be a major producer and exporter of cannabis while its cultivation is decreasing in Dominican Republic, Cuba, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Honduras. Jamaica seems to be assuming greater importance for trans-shipment of cocaine bound for the US and the UK. Cocaine trafficking was found in El Salvador, while heroin trafficking is on the rise in the Dominican Republic. Costa Rica is faced with a resurgence of LSD trafficking. Honduras reported a record seizure in 2008 of pharmaceutical preparations containing pseudoephedrine, amounting to two million tablets originating in Bangladesh. Costa Rica seized a large number of pharmaceutical preparations in the form of tablets.

In South America cocaine manufacture increased in Peru and Bolivia. Coca bush cultivation decreased in Columbia, while it increased in Peru and Bolivia. Cocaine seizure increased in Bolivia, Peru, Columbia, Argentina, Brazil and Ecuador. Manufacture of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) is continuing as well as smuggling of ephedrines into Mexico. Illicit manufacture of synthetic drugs has emerged in the region.

Africa continues to be vulnerable to the diversion of the chemical precursors ephedrine and pseudoephedrine used in the illicit manufacture of methamphetamine in central and North America. Heroin continues to enter Africa mainly through the countries in East Africa, but increasingly through islands in the Indian Ocean. As a spillover effect, Mauritius has the highest levels of abuse of heroin in Africa. From East Africa, part of the heroin is smuggled to West Africa, especially to Cote dIvoire and from there into Europe and North America.

The INCB report talks of drug-related violence in Mexico and blames violent gangs affiliated with Asian and Mexican drug cartels for drug distribution at the street level in the United States. It blames the Mexican drug cartels for illicit cannabis cultivation in the public land in the United States and Asian criminal organizations based in Canada for stepping up indoor cultivations. The report says that drug abuses are declining in the United States and Canada while it is on the rise in Mexico.

The reports also says that drug abuse is stable or on the decline in many countries in Europe. Smuggling of drugs through the lesser developed countries of Eastern Europe has increased. Illicit market for opiates has expanded in Eastern Europe, particularly in Albania, Belarus, Croatia, Moldova, Russia and in countries along the Balkan route. Drug is mainly smuggled by car and train and by air from Central and Eastern Europe to Western Europe.

The INCB report blames Asian criminal groups based in New Zealand using Asian students and visitors as receivers of drugs. Mauritius has recently emerged as a point for drugs transportation to Australia as the demand for MDMA has increased there. China has emerged as a major source of pseudoephedrine tablets seized in Fiji, Papua Guinea and Tonga and other countries in the Oceania region.