Beyond the Aryan Khan Affair: Has India Spoiled Its War on the Illegal Drug Trade?



Call it what you want. While the Bombay High Court on Thursday corrected what many believed was wrong by granting bail to actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan in the Mumbai cruise drug case, another actor, Armaan Kohli, was waiting for his bail application to be heard by the same court.

Reports said Armaan Kohli’s bail hearing was scheduled for October 27 in the Bombay High Court, but could not be resumed due to lack of time. On the other hand, Aryan Khan was released on bail on October 28 after three consecutive days of hearing in the Bombay High Court.

Armaan Kohli was arrested by the Narcotics Control Bureau (BCN) on August 29 following a raid at his residence in Mumbai. He had applied for bail at the Bombay High Court after the detailed Sessions Court order dismissing his plea was released on October 21. Aryan Khan, arrested by the NCB on October 3, had moved the Bombay High Court the day before.

In both cases, the the detainees claimed that the NCB did not have “equipment” to reserve them. The BCN, for its part, cited panchnama or witness statements to build its cases against the two people with ties to Bollywood.

Last year another actor, Rhea Chakraborty, was arrested by BCN on drug-related charges. She was released after 28 days.

These cases have led many to ask the question: Has India screwed up its fight against drugs?

This is a valid question to ask. According to the World Drug Report 2021, India has become a major center of drug use. The report says India is also linked with drug shipments sold in 19 major darknet markets analyzed between 2011 and 2020.

He pointed out that prescription drugs and their ingredients are being diverted for recreational use in India, which proudly boasts of being the world’s largest manufacturer of generic drugs.

The World Drug Report appears to validate the findings of a survey – Magnitude of Substance Use in India – conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) in 2018. The report, published in 2019, indicates that around 5 million Indians have reportedly used cannabis and opioids.

The question of spoiling the drug fight is also valid as the agencies have failed to find who is the biggest supplier of drugs in India? The drug suppliers are said to use the network of smugglers and traffickers, but while huge amounts of drugs arrive in India, those bringing them remain unidentified.

INDIA TRAPPED BETWEEN THE DRUG CRESCENT AND THE TRIANGLE

Two of the largest opium producing regions are on the western and eastern flanks of India. They are loosely referred to as drug crescent and drug triangle – for recipients, they are the golden crescent and the golden triangle.

Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran form the region’s crescent. The The Taliban’s success in Afghanistan as a terrorist group is largely attributed to drug trafficking.

Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Laos are part of the triangle of drug producers. India is practically sandwiched between the crescent and the triangle of drug producers. A large population and increasing income levels make India a huge market for recreational drugs.

Recently, contraband worth Rs 21,000 crore was seized in a port in Gujarat. Agencies have yet to find those responsible for smuggling such a large shipment of heroin – nearly 3,000 kg.

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LEGAL ACTION

India began its fight against drugs in the 1980s. To fulfill its obligation as a signatory to international conventions, including those of the United Nations, India enacted the Narcotics and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS ) in 1985.

The following year, the Narcotics Control Bureau (BCN) was established. Its mandate is to combat drug trafficking and the use of illegal substances listed under the NDPS Act. It was amended three times in 1989, 2001 and 2014 to strengthen the fight against drugs.

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The NCB, headed by the Director General, operates with 12 zone offices and 13 sub-zone offices. The Mumbai area office has been blamed of late for allegedly “spoiling” the drug fight by attracting unwanted attention with its action against Bollywood celebrities.

GOVERNMENT ACTION

On June 26, International Day Against Drug Abuse and Trafficking, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for stepping up the fight against drugs by declaring that “drug addiction is neither cool nor a style statement”.

During the monsoon session of parliament next month, the Union’s Home Office, on which the NCB reports, told parliament that India has signed 26 bilateral pacts with different countries to fight the illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, in addition to chemical precursors (ingredients diverted to manufacture drugs).

READ ALSO | Aryan Khan bail hearing: lawyer says NCB never officially filed conspiracy complaint

Earlier in 2016, the Union’s Home Office set up the Narco Coordination Center (NCORD) mechanism for effective drug law enforcement.

An electronic portal, SIMS (Seizure Information Management System) was launched in 2019 for the digitization of pan-Indian data on drug seizures under the NDPS law. The National Drug Abuse Control Fund was set up to cover the costs of combating the drug threat.

The government has developed a policy to conduct a national drug addiction survey to find out the status of drug addiction. A “Nasha Mukt Bharat” (Drug Free India) campaign has also been launched.

HOW MANY DRUGS AND WHO BRINGS THEM?

The gross value of the drug and narcotics trade in India was in the order of Rs 350 to Rs 450 billion between 2012 and 2019, according to a July 2021 report published by statista.com. However, the main players in this illegal trade have clearly escaped the BCN.

In December 2020, the BCN arrested a Mohammad Azam Jumman Shaikh in connection with the Rhea Chakraborty case and seized 5 kg of charas in his possession. The raid was led by Sameer Wankhede, the NCB area manager in Mumbai. According to a BCN official, Shaikh was one of the “biggest” suppliers of narcotics, according to reports – an indication that the real big players in the drug network remain beyond the reach of the BCN.


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