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Merchants of death switch to online drug deals as BSF, police step up the heat in Punjab

File Photo of drug seized in Punjab

Amritsar/Ferozepur: With the BSF and state police mounting pressure, drug traffickers in Punjab are switching to online deals via WhatsApp to sell drugs to addicts.

Dealers now deliver drugs, especially heroin (known as Chitta locally), at pre-decided locations in response to demand messages on WhatsApp in what has emerged as a mobile online drug market in Punjab.
While there has been an attempt to set a narrative that heroin is easily available at grocery (‘karyana’) shops in border areas of Punjab, the evidence on the ground does not corroborate this view. A large section of villagers in Amritsar and Ferozepur districts also confirm that Chitta is not openly available at shops.

A hardware shopkeeper at Serai Amanat Khan village, Angrez Singh reveals that now with changing times, not Karyana shops but a large online drug market running on WhatsApp is being used to ply the trade. A message is sent to the trafficker on WhatsApp and the drug is delivered at the decided place on a cash basis. At present, there are no permanent drug sale points which earlier used to be identified and raided by the police.

A tour of the border areas reveals that with the heightened joint efforts of the BSF and state police, Chitta supply lines being run by the merchants of death, who have been destroying lives and livelihoods, are getting choked due to the crackdown. This is also reflected in a substantial increase in the price of drugs due to the reduced availability. One gram of Chitta which was earlier available at less than Rs 1000 per gram., now costs up to Rs 1500 per gram.

In Kals village, half a kilometre from the International Border (IB), a Congress-aligned Sarpanch Major Singh, AAP worker and member of panchayat Harpal Singh, member panchayat Surinder Singh, and ex-Sarpanch Harmandir Singh unanimously say that drugs are in no way available at grocery shops.

They say the general public is now cooperating and providing information to the BSF and the local police about drug traffickers leading to their arrests and seizures. Under the Khemkaran police station, 18.72 kg of Chitta was recovered from December 2022 to February 2023. It is here that the largest drone (see video clip) was recovered with over 7 kg of heroin.

In Rattoke village, about one and a half kilometres from the international border, sarpanch Kulbir Singh and Jaskaran Singh told indianarrative.com that Chitta addicts now have to make greater efforts to get the drug.

The Prem Nagar village Sarpanch Bhag Singh and Numberdar Khazan Singh say, “if police start acting honestly tough, no traces of drugs will be found anywhere within three months.” A young boy aged 17 years died in a neighbouring village after injecting an overdose of some synthetic drug, Bhag Singh disclosed.

In Ferozepur’s Lakha Singhwala Hithad village, Sarpanch Harpinder Singh says “our small village has been blessed as there is no Chitta addict.

In Killiawale village Sarpanch Karnail Singh is disgusted with drug smugglers who arrange delivery of Chitta by using drones that drop packets in the fields of border villages as a drone can only fly up to a limited distance. The drug carriers, hailing from distant areas, walk into their fields to collect the contraband. After each incident of drone dropping, the BSF starts questioning people. It also then reduces the time period for opening the gates for farmers who have land across the barbed fence.

In Basti Jaskaran Singh village, a member of Block Samiti, Mamdot Harbans Singh echoes the same sentiment that “drug smugglers, from distant villages, do come to retrieve contraband after it is dropped in our fields.”

However, in Kadma village 4 kilometres from the border, Sarpanch Baljit Singh reveals 40 per cent of the population of his village is addicted to drugs of different types including Chitta.

“In my village, 8 youths have died due to drug consumption in recent times. If the police make an honest attempt, the drug menace can be fully controlled,” he stresses. He does not know if any Karyana shop was selling Chitta in his village or adjoining areas.

Baljit Singh claims even during the Covid lockdown, drugs were available. How could traffickers supply narcotics to “addicts when it was difficult for a common man to even step out of his house, he questions. “It was all due to police connivance,” he alleges.

Ferozepur SSP Kanwardeep Kaur maintains that as many as 799 FIRs were registered and 900 persons arrested in 2022, out of which 100 were big fish. In the month of January 2023, 80 FIRs were registered under NDPs Act resulting in the arrest of 96 smugglers. As many as 6 drones were downed starting January 2022 to January 31, 2023.

Also Read: Why Friday is a dry day for drug smugglers on Pakistan border