FPJ Special: Four-fold rise in drug seizures in ’21; cryptocurrency used to evade police

ANC data released in March shows much higher seizures in both quantity and value than 2019 and 2020; in the last three weeks alone, 37,800 sq mt of opium cultivation was seized by CBN in Arunachal, the source of opium for most Metros

Dharmesh ThakkarUpdated: Sunday, April 03, 2022, 08:59 AM IST
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Representational Image | File

Mumbai: There was an alarming fourfold rise in the quantity of narcotics seized in 2021 as compared to 2020, or even 2019. Even though the number of cases last year were marginally less than 2019, the drugs seized in both quantity and value shot up.

This has been revealed by the Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC) in its data released last month.

The other alarming trends that have surfaced with the national crime record are that addicts are depending on over-the-counter prescription drugs and that narcotics are being purchased on the darknet through cryptocurrency, making seizures and arrests very difficult.

Statistics show that the ANC seized 1,127 kg of narcotics (comprising heroin, charas, cocaine, ganja, MD, LSD blots, among other drugs) in 2019, 1,127 kg in 2020 and 4,185 kg in 2021, despite a series of lockdowns.

Consumption fell sharply from 11,684 cases in 2019 to 3,074 cases in 2020, but again doubled to 6,494 cases in 2021.

In 2022 (January to March), the Central Bureau of Narcotics (CBN) registered seven cases and seized 25.13 kg of opium, 1.42 kg medicinal opium, 1,738 kg of poppy straw, 290 gram of heroin, and 52.74 kg of tramadol.

In 2021, the CBN seized 62.55 kg opium, 17,557 kg black poppy seeds, 9.83 kg heroin, 29,454 kg poppy straw, 698.25 kg of ganja, and 37,800 sq mt of illicit opium cultivation in Arunachal Pradesh, besides 24,050 kg of acetic anhydride, 13.39 kg of MD powder and 3,29,642 injections/tablets of psychotropic substances.

Of all CBN seizures, the opium cultivation is of maximum significance as it comes to Maharashtra largely from Arunachal Pradesh. CBN Commissioner Rajesh Dhabre told the Free Press Journal, “Our narcotics officers identified and destroyed 3,600 hectares of illicit cultivation in the hostile and inaccessible regions of Arunachal in the last three weeks (in March alone). The illicit poppy-growing areas and destruction of the opium fields of 1,400 bighas was the major source of illicit drugs to major cities in India.”

Moreover, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) headed by former zonal director Sameer Wankhede last year had nabbed Makarand Adivirkar, known as ‘cryptocurrency king’ in some circles, and busted a drug syndicate.

Adivirkar allegedly took cash from local peddlers and used cryptocurrency to purchase drugs from abroad. The NCB managed to get Binance, a Cayman Islands-based cryptocurrency exchange to freeze the account of Adivirkar in a contraband case under the Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators (Forfeiture of Property) Act (SAFEMA) using bitcoins to buy LSD, a psychotropic substance, in November 2020.

DCP Datta Nalawade, heading the Mumbai ANC, said, “A three-fold strategy is required to combat the menace – awareness, dedication and crackdown on narcotics by dismantling supply chains. It is a challenging task to detect and track drug traffickers and peddlers using technology like darknet and secret apps. Our aim is to control supply of drugs in Mumbai by reducing the demand while creating awareness, taking action against supply chains, distributors and peddlers.”

Leading psychiatrist and counsellor Dr. Yusuf Matcheswala, who is also the founder of Humanity Health Organisation for the rehabilitation of drug abuse victims, said that abuse of over-the counter prescription drugs amongst youngsters is a cause of concern in India. He added that affordable rehabilitation of drug abuse victims is the need of the hour.

“Unlicensed drug rehab centres are mushrooming and are operated by former drug addicts who use their own personal experiences at government rehab centres to design their own programmes without proper psychiatrists and counsellors,” said Dr Matcheswala, adding that these reformed addicts offer fancy facilities and luxuries at farm houses and resorts charging exorbitant fees for promising anonymity to drug abuse victims, causing more harm.

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