Curbing drug smuggling

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The illegal narcotics trade is a significant problem worldwide and India is no exception. Pakistan is known to be a major transit point for drug trafficking from Afghanistan, which is the world’s largest producer of opium. Practically, India is also a significant consumer of illegal drugs, particularly cannabis and opioids. These drugs are often smuggled into the country from neighbouring countries, including Pakistan. India has also been grappling with the use of synthetic drugs such as methamphetamine. Efforts to combat the narcotics trade have been made, including increased border security and law enforcement cooperation with neighbouring countries. However, the trade persists due to the high demand for drugs and the large profits that can be made from trafficking them. The trade is controlled by criminal networks, including some with links to terrorist organisations and what we call “narco-terrorism. It is important to note that the illegal narcotics trade is a complex issue. It involves multiple actors, including drug producers, traffickers, and consumers, as well as corruption and complicity from some government officials. Curbing narcotics smuggling in India is a complex and challenging task that requires a multi-pronged approach. Strengthening law enforcement is the first step in curbing narcotics smuggling, which includes increasing the number of police officers, border guards, and other law enforcement officials who are dedicated to investigating and prosecuting drug trafficking cases. India can work closely with neighbouring countries to share intelligence and coordinate efforts to prevent narcotics smuggling. Name and shame the countries involved in trafficking at international forums. Most important is the focus on demand reduction, an essential aspect of curbing narcotics smuggling. This involves increasing awareness about the dangers of drug abuse through public education campaigns and supporting drug addiction treatment programmes. Smuggling methods have changed; the use of drones and tunnels has to be countered by equal technical measures. Increase the cost of smuggling and toughen penalties by imposing higher fines and longer prison sentences. There are strong provisions in the NDPS Act, including confiscating the property of the smuggler, but these are seldom used effectively. A proactive approach is a must. Disrupting criminal networks is the most important part. Catch one tout or big smuggler, and then the whole chain of the network should be in the legal net, through targeted investigations, intelligence operations, and financial tracking to identify and arrest the key players in the drug trade. Huge consignments had been seized in the past, in 2022 only narcotics weighing around 5,94,620 kg worth Rs 8,409 crore had been destroyed. The many-fold increase in registered cases is a testimony that we have not been able to curb the drug menace. What is the conviction percentage? Year after year, drug abuse is on the rise, unchallenged. The sea route is the favourite method, as more than 70% of smuggling occurs through this route alone. Countermeasures have to be found to stop this huge smuggling racket. Full tanker scanners at ports and full truck scanners at various highways are the least the administration can deploy. As pointed out by the Home Minister, drug detection, network destruction, culprit detention and addict rehabilitation are the four pillars of the fight against narcotics. Half-hearted, staid methods are not going to work. Accountability must be established from the ground up. Civil society has to play the most important role in supporting drug de-addiction and remaining vigilant. State after state, we are now struggling to cope with the drug menace. Interstate police cooperation and intelligence sharing is other important aspect to be looked into. Drug addiction is going to be a major stumbling block in our goal of having a USD 5 trillion economy by 2025. Overall, time is running out; a comprehensive approach that involves law enforcement, demand reduction, and international cooperation is needed to effectively curb narcotics smuggling in India.