Drug smuggling jumped 3 times during covid lockdown period; sea is the new route

The report also underlined the latest “trends and patterns” of 2021, saying the maritime route is now responsible for bringing more than 70 per cent of drugs and contraband into India.

Young Brains in Delhi’s Drug Market

The drug network was well planned as there were no direct contacts among the consumers, customers and the smugglers. (Representational photo: Unsplash)

The use of darknet shot up, resulting in spike in drug trafficking by manifold in India during 2020-21 when Covid-19 induced restrictions were in place.

There was two-to-three times jump in drug trafficking through couriers and postal services in India in that span, a latest NCB report said.

The data compiled by the federal anti-narcotics agency says that while there were only 27 courier/postal drug seizures in 2017 followed by a moderate hike in these interceptions at 40 in 2018 and 67 in 2019, the Covid years of 2020 and 2021 saw 260 and 146 seizures respectively.

The report also underlined the latest “trends and patterns” of 2021, saying the maritime route is now responsible for bringing more than 70 per cent of drugs and contraband into India.

The land border route has till now been the most preferred to smuggle in drugs into India.

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB)-authored report also says that the trafficking of Ganja (Cannabis), within the country, during the same time period of 2020-21 “increased” as supply of synthetic drugs– post COVID-19 and the linked nation-wide lockdown — went down.

The United Nations office on drugs and crime (UNODC) says “Cannabis is the most widely used illicit substance in the world.”

“The restrictions imposed on vehicular, ship, airplane movement during COVID-19 pandemic has made drug traffickers rely more upon courier, parcel and post. This field has emerged as more challenging for DLEAs (drug law enforcement agencies).”

“Parcel seizures in 2020 marked an increase of 300 per cent over 2019. This increase mainly owes to the global disruption of air traffic due to COVID-19. Number of parcel cases in 2021 is almost double that of the number of cases in 2019,” the report, accessed by PTI, said.

It added that the “high increase in the number of parcel cases is also due to the increased trafficking of drugs through darknet markets.”

Darknet denotes the hidden Internet platforms that can only be accessed using specialised software and pre-configured communication protocols for anonymous communication. Drug cartels and syndicates are known to use this to stay under the radar of law enforcement agencies.

The report expressed concern on the increased usage of the sea route being used to traffic drugs into India, saying this trend may further grow.

“The maritime drug trafficking in Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal poses new challenges to drug law enforcement agencies and they anticipate further increase of this route by international drug trafficking syndicates operating from Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

“It is estimated that more than 70 per cent of the total drug trafficking is being conducted through maritime routes,” the report said.

It said the “interception” of maritime drugs trafficking, has “especially increased” along the western seaboard.

“Most of such seizures are sourced from the ports of Afghanistan and Iran which are destined to coastal states in India or are in future transit to countries like Sri Lanka, Maldives etc.

“While heroin is the most trafficked drug through maritime route, ATS (amphetamine-type stimulants), Charas, and Cocaine are also seized,” it said.

A data annexed with the report said various agencies involved in the anti-drugs trafficking task seized more than 4,200 kgs of narcotics, shipped through the sea, during 2021.

(With PTI inputs)

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