In 2018, of the 10,006 NDPS cases in Mumbai, according to Vidhi Legal, 9,743 involved personal consumption and just 263 related to trafficking; in 2017, there were 12,946 cases of personal use and 298 of trafficking.
The arrest of actor Rhea Chakraborty has a lot of political undertones, apart from Bollywood rivalries – and TRP-driven TV channels – adding to the mix, but the history of the Narcotic Drugs & Pyschotropic Substances (NDPS) Act under which she has been charged is also one of significant abuse.
Till 2013, a policy brief by Vidhi Legal points out, Maharashtra used to have an average of 1,766 cases under NDPS every year. In 2014, however, this shot up dramatically, to 14,622, and since then the number of cases has been very high. Of the 12,195 cases in Maharashtra in 2018, 10,006 were in Mumbai.
What is interesting is that, while the number of cases involving trafficking have remained more or less constant – Chakraborty has been arrested for procuring cannabis for the late Sushant Singh Rajput – the cases of personal consumption have risen dramatically. In 2018, of the 10,006 NDPS cases in Mumbai, according to Vidhi Legal, 9,743 involved personal consumption and just 263 related to trafficking; in 2017, there were 12,946 cases of personal use and 298 of trafficking.
With around 98% of all cases involving possession for personal use, and most of those arrested under the Act pleading guilty, conviction rates are high, allowing the government to claim victory on the war on drugs.
The reality, as Vidhi Legal points out, is quite different. First, the history of seizures is low; in 2016, there were 14,071 cases where no drugs were seized and just 519 where there were seizures. Within the seizures of Rs 60.6 crore in 2016, around a tenth was cannabis. Yet, 87% of NDPS arrests in Mumbai were related to cannabis.
And since most arrests are cannabis-related, those arrested are usually the poor. Of the 839 cases that Vidhi Legal analyzed, 50 were labourers, 25 were students, 19 were rickshaw drivers, two were watchmen.