Satya Narayan Pradhan, Director General, Narcotics Control Bureau, spoke with Group Editorial Director (Publishing) Raj Chengappa and Managing Editor Sandeep Unnithan about the danger revealed by huge drug busts like the one in Mundra, the threat of Afghanistan’s booming opium production and the wide acceptance of drugs among the well-heeled, as shown by the Mumbai cruise liner case. Excerpts:
Q. How worrisome is the boom in Afghan opium production?
Opium production was rising even before the Taliban took over. There was a 37 per cent increase in the land under opium cultivation in 2019-20. It is now at an all-time high—224,000 hectares. Afghanistan accounts for 83 per cent of the world’s opium production. This has increased over the years. The drugs flow in from Afghanistan and via ports along the Iranian coast. Even when the Afghans are pushing the stuff, they tie up with Pakistanis. It is the Pakistanis who are oiling the (drug smuggling) machine.
“For the new generation, if you don’t do some kind of drugs, you’re not ‘with it’. “
Q. What are the worries about the Mundra shipment? And what is being done to prevent a repeat of it?
The worry is that it could have happened several times in the past without us knowing about it. The jump [in shipment sizes] from 30 kilos to 3 tonnes was not sudden; it would have happened several times. They would have sent several 1,000 kg [shipments], maybe even 4,000 kilos. We have increased our coordination with other security agencies to detect such shipments.
Q. What challenges does this huge inflow of drugs pose for India?
There are three aspects to the problem—supply, transit and the consumers. India has all three—we are a heavy consumption point, we are a transit point and we are a supply route. We are looking at over 50 million users who are habitually dependent. That’s a huge market and growing. That is a huge pull for any drug supplier.
Q. What are the parallels between the Sushant Singh Rajput case and the cruise liner case?
They are indicative of the fact that young people are graduating from alcohol to excitement of a different kind. It’s a definitive change. For the new generation, if you don’t do some kind of drugs, you’re not ‘with it’. There is peer pressure, and sometimes, consumers become petty traders to fund their habits.
Q. What are the new trends in drug smuggling post the pandemic?
Drug smugglers have started using courier agencies to deliver drugs and the DarkNet to carry out transactions. Post February 2020 and the courier boom, the delivery of drugs using couriers has gone through the roof. It is physically impossible for enforcement agencies to drill down and find the contents of small packets. We are also seeing traditional supply routes for smuggling shift southwards towards Rajasthan and Gujarat.