Mumbai: Dark web of narcotics sees a rise in city

“Whiskey bottles, and brand new cars, Oak tree you’re in my way, There’s too much coke and too much smoke, Look what’s going on inside you” – wrote the lead vocalist and lyricist of Lynyrd Skynyrd along with guitarist Allen Collins in 1971 that became the song ‘That Smell’. ‘That Smell’ fittingly describes the Mumbai and its tryst with drugs.

Within the first three months of this year, Mumbai has registered 1,111 cases and have arrested 1202 persons. While the specialised national drug control agency in the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) has registered 46 cases and arrested 84 persons.

And this is despite that the pandemic has hit drug trafficking at an international level. “Drug trafficking relies heavily on legal trade to camouflage its activities and on individuals being able to distribute drugs to consumers. The measures implemented by Governments to counter the COVID19 pandemic have thus inevitably affected all aspects of the illegal drug markets, from the production and trafficking of drugs to their consumption,” states the latest of reports from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The hit has much to do with the closure of air traffic as synthetic drugs tend to be trafficked by air, which is carried out by air couriers using body packs or concealing drugs in their personal luggage, notes the UNODC report.

But that has not stopped drug syndicates to adopt new methods as both Mumbai police and NCB has seen. Dark web has turned out to be on the prime methods for ordering and supplying drugs, and as has indigenous ways of producing marijuana. It came as a surprise even for NCB officials when they recently raided a two-bedroom hall kitchen flat in Dombivali to find that marijuana was being cultivated using hydroponics.

"Lockdown has made smugglers and peddlers find different and unique ways of smuggling drugs. Foreign syndicates are sending drugs via speed post and air cargo couriers. What is shocking, is that the consumption of drugs like LSD and Mephedrone has drastically increased in Mumbai," said Sameer Wankhede, Zonal Director of Mumbai Unit of NCB.

And Wankhede’s insight into the increase in drug consumption can be ascertained as he has a led one operation after another to crackdown on drug syndicates in the city ever since he was given charge to probe the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput at his Bandra flat on June 14, 2020. Since then, the NCB office has taken a centre stage of sorts with numerous Bollywood celebrities being questioned in connection with drug usage and many arrests following.

"The youngsters and high-profile people are obtaining drugs using darknet and paying through bitcoin. Also, production of marijuana through hydroponics seems to be a new trend as the drug is potent, and peddlers associate a high price for it,” said Wankhede.

Explaining how dark net is used to procure drugs, a Mumbai police officer, requesting anonymity, said, "The first step to procure drugs like LSD, or curated bud, is by getting a software that is readily available on the web. Once you get the software, it allows you to access darknet and then there are various websites which allow you buy or sell drugs anonymously. Anonymous messenger services are used to buy drugs, and payment is done through bitcoin or by using services of middlemen on some websites. The simplicity to access this is what has given it so much leverage for drug users and syndicates.”

Most peddled drugs in Mumbai this year as per the NCB: Codeine (5484 bottles), Heroin (2.967 kg), Cocaine (28.70 grams), Charas (1.09 kg), Ganja (222.109 kg), Amphetamine (0.223 grams), Mephedrone (11 kg), Ephedrine (6.286 kg), Methamphetamine (1.010 kg), Alprazolam (320 grams), MDMA (12.18 grams), Ecstasy (30 tablets), LSD (10.60 grams), Tramadol (4.420 kg) and Zolpidem (3850 tablets).

Most peddled drugs in Mumbai this year as per Mumbai police: Heroin (267 grams), Charas (40.23 kg), Cocaine (704 grams), Ganja (2902.81 kg) and Mephedrone (47.31 kg).

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