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Bengaluru: While Bengaluru was under a tight lockdown due to Covid-19 pandemic, drug peddlers had a field day. The city saw a whopping 290% increase in daily seizure of narcotic substances since last year.

On an average, the city cops seized drugs worth less than Rs 1 lakh in 2019 and this jumped more than five-fold to touch Rs 6.7 lakh over the past one-and-a-half years. While police presence at checkpoints was beefed up, peddlers preferred to use dark web and cryptocurrency to supply drugs to customers, sometimes even posing as delivery agents, reports said.

The police version is that they managed to foil the peddlers’ methods citing the increase in drug seizure and presence of a large number of first-time offenders — including students, techies and others who had lost jobs during lockdown. However, the curbs on inter-state and international travel did little to check the inflow of narcotics.

“What we observed in 2020, especially during lockdown, was that narcotic traffickers used various routes to enter the city. We saw an increase in darknet orders and cryptocurrency transactions to procure drugs. Also, peddlers supplied drugs in the disguise of food delivery staff. We were able to reach smuggling routes and crack many cases last year and this year,” Sandeep Patil, joint commissioner of police (crime), was quoted in the media.

While in 2019, Bengaluru police registered 768 cases and seized drugs worth Rs 3.5 crore, the numbers touched 2,766 and Rs 21.4 crore in 2020. This year, 1,680 cases have been registered and drugs worth Rs 14.8 crore seized till date. In 2020 alone, 3,870 kg of ganja was seized -- about 261% increase from the haul of 1,047kg in 2019.

Many who lost jobs in Bengaluru started growing ganja on their agricultural land and on forest fringes, sources said.

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