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Drug Abuse increasingly becoming an Internal Security Threat !

Around 275 million people are affected with drug abuse of any kind. Out of these numbers, suffering from various ailments due to their drug addiction, around 36 million people fall in the category of Problem users.

Drug Abuse increasingly becoming an Internal Security Threat !

ByDr AP Maheshwari

The UNODC in its drug report of the year 2021 has highlighted the fact that with an estimated increase of 22% during the period 2010-2019, worldwide, around 275 million people are affected with drug abuse of any kind. Out of these numbers, suffering from various ailments due to their drug addiction, around 36 million people fall in the category of Problem users.

Alarmingly, India is not decoupled with these fast-growing numbers of drug abusers. The drug abuse survey conducted by the NDDTC, AIIMS New Delhi, under the aegis of MoSJE, in the year 2019 came out with a finding that even though the total number of the population in India abusing Cannabinoids increased from 8.75 million in the year 2004 to 31 million in the year 2019, the prevalence of abuse of Cannabinoids in terms of the percentage of the total population of the country almost remained constant at around 3%. However, during this period, the number of Opioid abusers @ 23 million, swelled to more than 11 times, having a threefold increase in its prevalence percentage @ 2.1% and the number of sedative abusers grew more than 41 times @ 11.9 million, having a tenfold increase in prevalent percentage @ 1.08% in comparison to the year 2004.

The quantum increase in the abuse of Opioids & Pharma drugs in the last 10-15 years in our country, which got further catapulted during the Covid pandemic period, gets manifested in the AIIMS Drug Survey report which has brought out an estimated number of around 20 million dependent abusers of Heroin only, creating a demand of approx 400 MT of Heroin per year, around 10% of which is the wholesale quality (relatively pure) at an estimated value of approx Rs 1, 44,000/- crores.

Extent of drug abuse in the country – 2004 vs. 2019 (Report on Magnitude of Substance Use in India, MSJE, Feb 2019)

Traditional Drug Trafficking Challenges:

● India is located between the world’s two largest areas of illicit Opium production–Golden Crescent & Golden Triangle.

● India is both a destination and the transit route for the Opiates produced in these regions.

The following aspects are crucial in this respect:

• Smuggling of Cocaine from Latin America through Africa and Middle East

• Trafficking of Ephedrine & Pseudoephedrine to Myanmar and reverse trafficking of ATS

• Trafficking of Hashish from Nepal & Himachal to Delhi, Mumbai and Goa.

• Trafficking of Ganja from AP, Odisha and NE regions

• Trafficking of scheduled Pharma drugs and Opioids from India to North American and European regions

• Prevalence of Synthetic drugs across all vulnerable areas.

Neo-Emerging Trends:

● Intensified activity of Afghan origin heroin through Land and Maritime Routes

● Use of drones and tunnels in trafficking of Heroin through the western borders

● Cocaine from Latin America through Africa and Middle East using human couriers      

Indian Airports of Interdiction: Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata & Delhi

Nationals involved: Mostly Africans & South Americans

Other Airport: Kathmandu (owing to the intensive surveillance at Indian Airports) for further trafficking to India.   

● Trafficking of Hydroponic Weeds from North American region

● Shift from Narcotic drugs towards Synthetic Drugs, Precursors and ATS

● Diversion/Abuse of Synthetic/Pharma Opioids & Prescription Drugs (Cough Syrups/ Tramadol/Diazepam)

● Proliferation of NPS – there’s a new drug being synthesized frequently to avoid regulation

● Extensive use of Inland/Air courier/parcel services

 As per the news report, with 19 states in the United States legalising consumption of Marijauna and cannabis and many still in the process of doing so, the easily available contraband is being trafficked rampantly into India through cargo and courier parcels arriving internationally, the Centre informed the Supreme Court.

Significant seizures in the recent past:

By virtue of its geographical location, India is sandwiched between world’s largest Heroin and Synthetic drugs, such as Methamphetamine, ATS etc producing areas; the Death Crescent and the Death Triangle, which makes it a transit point as well as consumption region. The regaining of the control of Afghanistan by the Taliban has seen a huge rise in the trafficking of Afghan Heroin. Some of the on/off shore seizure of the huge consignment of Heroin in the Indian waters has established the alertness of our Drug Law Enforcement Agencies but the estimated per annum demand of the huge quantity of Heroin from the Indian soil will always attract the attention of drug lords and would prove to be a huge challenge for the DLEAs to counter this drug trafficking menace. The illicit cultivation of Cannabis & Opium Poppy in remote jungle areas, particularly in LWE affected regions & NE States, and their illegal trafficking across the country, coupled with large scale existence of clandestine Heroin manufacturing labs, illicit diversion of prescription drugs for recreational abuse & continuous influx of Cocaine, originating from Latin American countries, has further worsened the drug abuse scenario in the country.

India, by virtue of having a large chemical base with growing pharmaceutical industry at 12-14% per annum is the 3rd largest producer of the world, having a market size of around 36 billion dollar per annum, with an export of around 19 billion dollars to around 200 countries. However, the fast-growing demand for the synthetic & prescription drugs and their easy & relatively secured access in the darknet world, has resulted in a steep rise in the illicit internet pharmacies dealing in the large-scale sale/purchase/diversion of NDPS substances.

As per the UNODC “The world drug report-2021 figures, it has reached to a figure of around 315 million dollars per year. China & India are also some of the prominent countries from India where NDPS dealers are majorly connected to top 19 darknet markets engaged in illicit drug trafficking. The concerning factor is the involvement of well-educated youths & professionals, both in selling & purchasing of these banned/restricted substances on this dark web, as they find it as a secured option to earn some fast & easy money as well as convenient home delivery mechanism through Air couriers & inland courier services.

Having seen the core data, as gathered from various sources, seemingly a very alarming situation is emerging in terms of much avoidable fractures in the human terrain on one hand- in terms of population degradation, deaths and the misery and on the other, the vulnerabilities on the internal security grid in form of exploitable segments falling prey to the adversary’s game plans. Both the situations have huge opportunity costs on economic as well as socio-cultural scales. Needless to assert that Drugs have become a major funding-source for terror perpetrators as well as the human traffickers. They destroy the cultural synergies that a society nurtures for ages.

Acknowledging these ever-growing threats of drug abuse & its illicit trafficking, the Government of India in the last 2-3 years has initiated a focused response to tackle this drug menace both in terms of Supply reduction & Harm reduction. In order to achieve these objectives, a greater emphasis & focus, through the 4 tier Narco Coordination (Ncord) Mechanism, in tackling the drug menace has been laid by the MHA and consequent to which, in the last 2-3 years, the drug law enforcement agencies have succeeded in conducting some sizeable seizures of NDPS with the arrest of a good number of traffickers including the kingpins. A greater coordination between the Central & the State Agencies has been established and recently, in a first of its kind effort, some of the drug seizure cases, initially booked by the State Police, were handed over to the NCB because of its larger base & Pan-India network for busting the inter-state/country drug network and in a very short span of time, with sheer cooperation of the State Police across the country, the agency has achieved some big successes in these cases.  

However, there is no room for complacency. As part of proxy war, our adversaries shall keep pushing in a huge cache of drugs in some way or the other, but we need to keep a persistent vigil to thwart their attempts in all possible ways. Civic society should also be duly sensitised and their concerted cooperation be sought as a core stakeholder.

Author is Fmr. IPS-Adv Lt Gov PY; DG CRPF;BPR&D; SS IS MHA;SDG BSF; Patron – Lung Care Foundation| DigiSwasthya for Rural Health| Lucknow Expressions Literary Society | Radhika Trust for Welfare of Widows; Security Advisor, RSSA ; Speaker & Author

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First published on: 23-12-2022 at 02:12:59 pm