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Concern: Seizure of Afghan meth on high seas

Seizure of Afghan meth on high seas

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In News: Seizure of Afghan meth on high seas

  • Two foreign trawlers packed with over USD 33 million worth of heroin and crystal methamphetamine were seized in Sri Lanka’s biggest-ever drugs bust at sea.
  • Initial investigations suggested that the boats came from Pakistan’s Makran coast, with the drugs presumed to have originated in Afghanistan.

News Summary:

  • The seizure of 100 kg of the methamphetamine is the indication of an emerging trend of meth produced in Afghanistan being smuggled out through an already well-established route for heroin trafficking to different parts of the world.
  • The opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan peaked in 2017, after which it declined.
  • By the 2018, there has been a shift in Afghanistan from Opium (used in heroin production) production to Meth production because of draught in the country.
  • The meth in the country was being produced in bulk using ephedrine extracted from a shrub locally known as Oman (Ephedra) growing in the wild in the Afghan mountains.
  • From 2018, there has been a shift from use of chemical to plant-based ephedrine for making meth.
  • The history of the Golden Triangle (the opium-producing area where the borders of Myanmar, Thailand and Laos meet) demonstrated that meth production could have significant impacts on an opium economy, rapidly transforming a plant-based narcotics challenge into a challenge of tracking large synthetic laboratories.

About: Methamphetamine

  • Methamphetamine is also known as meth, crystal, glass, ice, speed and shards.
  • It is a psychostimulant “party” drug.
  • It is much cheaper and highly addictive compared to cocaine.
  • Its effect may last for over 12 hours. In contrast, heroin is a depressant.
  • In Afghanistan, meth is known to locals as “shisha” (glass).

Drugs smuggling issue:

Drug Trafficking in India:
Seizure of Afghan meth on high seas
  • India is vulnerable to narcotic drug trafficking as it is located between two largest Opium producing regions of the world i.e. Golden Crescent (Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran) in the west and Golden Triangle (Thailand-Laos-Myanmar) in the east.
  • These are Asia’s two principal areas of illicit opium production located at the crossroads of Central, South, and Western Asia.
  • Indigenous production of low grade heroin as well as various psychotropic and prescription drugs and their growing demand in the neighboring countries and international market have added a new dimension to the problem of drug trafficking.
  • Trafficking of drugs takes place overwhelmingly through land borders followed by sea and air routes.
  • The Pakistan border has been the main entry point of drugs into Punjab.
Seizure of Afghan meth on high seas
Seizure of Afghan meth on high seas

Strategy to decrease drug demand:

  • The Government of India is tackling the issue of drugs through its two-pronged strategy i.e.
  • Supply reduction: This falls under the purview of the enforcement agencies. Controlling the smuggling of drugs from abroad is dealt by the Home Ministry, BSF and Narcotics Department.
  • Demand reduction: The demand reduction strategy is in the domain of social sector. Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment in the Government of India is responsible for implementation of demand reduction activities in the country.

Steps taken by Government of India to deal with drug trafficking:

  • India has tried to tackle the menace of drug trafficking through the strategy of drug supply and demand reduction, which involves enacting laws, co-operating with voluntary organizations, securing its borders and coasts by increasing surveillance, as well as seeking the active cooperation of its neighbours and the international community.
  • Laws: Section 71 of the Narcotic Drugs & Psychotropic Substance Act, 1985, empowers to Government for establishment of identification, treatment and rehabilitation centres for drug addiction.
  • Agencies:
    1. The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) is India’s nodal agency to fight drug trafficking.
    2. The Narco Coordination Centre (NCORD) was constituted in 2016 in NCB for effective coordination amongst the various drug law enforcement agencies as well as different departments/ministries.
    3. NCB has been provided funds for developing a new software i.e. Seizure Information Management System (SIMS) which will create a complete online database of drug offences and offenders.
  • Funds:
    1. The government has constituted a fund called National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse to meet the expenditure incurred in connection with combating illicit traffic in Narcotic Drug, Psychotropic Substances; identifying, treating and rehabilitating addicts, and educating public against drug abuse, etc.
    2. The Home ministry also revived the scheme of Financial Assistance to States for Narcotics Control.
  • International Cooperation: India have also signed 5 Bilateral Agreements/MoUs in recent years with Australia, Singapore, Mozambique, Thailand and Nepal in drug matters.

Other measures:

  • The government has also conducted National Drug Abuse Survey to measure extent, pattern and trends of drug abuse in India which presents the major findings of the survey in terms of proportion of Indian population using various substances and those affected by substance use disorders.
  • Various agencies also carried out destruction of illicit cultivation of cannabis and opium poppy all over the country.
  • In 2017, the government approved new reward guidelines with increased quantum of reward for interdiction or seizure of different illicit drugs.

Also Read: Editorial Analysis: India must push through fiscal stimulus and Universal Basic Income

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