Highway to drug addiction

Highway to drug addiction

Not only is the City's underbelly mired in couriering and peddling drugs, the well-to-do are also at the crossroads of the malaise

Highway to drug addiction

Wearing different hats and being a hotbed of transformation, Bangalore is tired. Tired of bearing people’s thoughts, embracing diverse cultures and dealing with its homeless. But it has not been able to free itself from the addiction of gaining repute for things.

For, addiction is not alien to any culture. Diction cannot differentiate its effects.

Known globally for various of its facets, now, Bangalore has slowly grown into a place which bears the tag of having become a transit hub for smugglers of narcotic substances, besides being a vibrant market for certain kinds of drugs.

The lure is too strong. Not only does the City’s underbelly find itself mired in couriering, abusing and peddling drugs, but the socially and economically well-to-do, are also in the crossroads of the issue.

Investigating authorities, while stating that there are no distinct categories that can be drawn while talking about drugs, cited an example of an IT professional, who is facing trial.

“...He was drawing a salary of over a lakh, but could not prevent himself from peddling drugs for a few thousand rupees,” an officer said.

The person was caught red-handed at the airport trying to smuggle in Ketamin from Chennai. The arrest was based on intelligence from agencies from Chennai, who had input that a local peddler was sending in the drug through the techie to Bangalore.

At the centre of all this activity is Bengaluru International Airport (BIA), which is witnessing a growth in such activity, as conceded by officials. The Customs Air Intelligence Unit (AIU) and the Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) have not made any such arrests this year, but that is no reflection of how things are.

Last year, officers of Customs AIU had made several arrests of persons carrying illegitimately drugs into Bangalore, from where it was to go to other destinations like Sri Lanka or reach the hands of the City’s own customers.

In one such instance on October 8, 2012, an Indian passenger named Andhar Sarma Chakkrapani, of Chennai who was departing to Kuala Lumpur was arrested for concealing in his check-in baggage Methylene Dioxy Amphetamine (MDA), which is a Psychotropic substance under the National Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) Act, 1985.
The goods were weighing 1.95 kg and costing around Rs 50 lakh per kg in the international market. There have also been instances of three passengers holding Indian passports, travelling to Kuala Lumpur and being arrested for attempting to smuggle Ketamine.

“A total of 13.50-kg of Ketamine, another psychotropic substance, was seized. Ketamine is priced approximately at Rs 10-lakh per kg in the international market,” a senior official said.

Stating there is enough evidence to suggest that such operations are carried out through an international cartel, officials said that places such as Sri Lanka and a few other South Asian countries receive packages that leave Bangalore undetected.

Intelligence agencies say that the network works across the country, with drugs coming into Bangalore from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab. Drugs such as opium arrive at these destinations from Afghanistan and other countries, including Pakistan.

While seizures at BIA and other exit points of the city show that Bangalore is growing as a transit point, seizures made by local authorities, which have seen contraband estimated to be worth crores of rupees in the international market, tell another tale.

A tale of such substances finding extensive demand on the streets of Bangalore. According to officials, the age at which people were found consuming drugs has reduced to 13 in 2012.

“It was 16 till 2011, but some of the victims (read drug users) found last were as young as 13,” an official from the health department said, adding that the stories that come out of de-addiction centres are heart-rending.

In the wake of an increase in the number of drug related cases in the City, the police along with other anti-narcotic bureau have intensified their actions against the transit-agents of drug cartels and are trying to identify their operational hotbeds.

“Seizure of hard drugs or Psychotropic substances in the recent raids, prove that, there is an an involvement of an international cartel. Such things cannot be produced domestically as they require chemical know-how and laboratory like infrasturcture and thorough funding. With so many anti-narcotic agencies, a set-up like that cannot function in the country without being undetected,” says an intelligence officer attached with the Narcotics control Bureau.

According to law enforcement officials, apart from the domestically produced drugs such as Ganja, Cocaine, Opium, Heroin, recently, over 100 varieties of substances have been classified as Psychotropic substances, banned internationally. However, over a period of time, they have generated popular demand among its consumers.

“The psychotropic drugs such as ketamine or LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) usually brought in to the city by foreign nationals, with international airports being the primary route,” Deputy Commissioner of Police, Devaraj said.

However, he opined that unlike domestic produce, psychotropic drugs are not freely available. “They are available only at exclusive places or high class joints. Nowadays, they have also found a potential market in several posh residential neighbourhoods in the city,” another officer said.

According to the police, most of the drug-transit agents apprehended are from African, Nepali origin, who come through BIA as tourists or students. “They work in coordination with a local network, with whom they distribute the contraband and profits of the trade,” an official said.

According to the NCB's database, Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Guwahati and Delhi, are among the major consumers of synthetic drugs like Methamphetamine, Ephedrine and Ketamine, whereas states like Haryana, Chandigarh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar  Pradesh, Punjab have greater demand for Ganja, Cocaine, Opium and Heroin.

Although the NDPS, 1975, does not show any difference in punishments for Indian nationals and foreigners, the law enforcement agencies are in an uneasy position. They are at the risk of targeting innocent travellers who visit the city, that can cause a major embarrassment internationally. On several occasions, some officers have been reprimanded for unintentional errors, Suresh S, a custom official at BIA explained.

The authorities cannot apprehend suspects, unless they are in possession of a narcotic substance. In some cases, the drug racketeers identify an unsuspecting target without criminal background and lure them for a ‘paid-vacation’ in return for delivering a drug-laden container to a foreign country. The transit-agent is usually unaware of the substance in the container and if caught, is also unable to identify the receiver.

Ultimately, he faces the law of the land, an officer explains.

Further, even in the technological front, the agencies are facing severe backlog in drug detection. This is because the drug-traffickers have modernised their production process and have been even manufacturing odour-free drugs to deceive the enforcement authorities. According to reports available with Deccan Herald, out of the 49 drug related cases registered by the Central Crime Branch (CCB) in the past three years, over 50 per cent of the cases of Psychotropic drugs were recovered from the possession of foreign nationals. Since 2011, the city police along with other anti-narcotic agency have seized over 50-kg of Ganja, 10-kg of Cocaine and other substances, that command a street value of crores of rupees.

* As recently as Friday night, the K P Agrahara Police conducted a surprise raid and apprehended Kishan Kumar Meghaval, 28 and Rakesh, 23,  hailing from Rajasthan and seized 2.1-kg of opium which was being sold to customers near Gopalan Residency, Telecom Layout. Two others, Gyanaram and Tejaram Chowdary escaped.

*  Based on the information provided by the arrested persons, another eight kgs of opium estimated to be worth Rs 60 lakh was seized.