Shimla: While Punjab continues to remain engaged in daily struggle to curb massive cross border drug smuggling menace, even the use of drones, Himachal Pradesh – the small tourist hill state– is facing a spillover effect.
The state intelligence agencies claim that drug consignments coming from Pakistan and Afghanistan regularly in Punjab are being trafficked to Himachal Pradesh, posing a serious challenge to the police.
Despite the state facing serious natural calamities due to torrential monsoon rains, landslides, floods and collapse of road infrastructure, the drug mafia continued to trade “chitta”— a highly addictive opioid drug, primarily heroin to the hills. Recoveries affected by the police during August 2023 in districts like Solan,Shimla and Una clearly shows the trend and gravity of the problem in the state.
State’s deputy Chief Minister Mukesh Agnihotri said,in the state legislative assembly, that the growing drug menace in Himachal was a cause for concern and the use of drones by the smugglers at Punjab borders, was making the problem even more serious, across the 360-km porous border of the state.
The state ,he said, has shared its concerns with the centre and also neighbouring state of Punjab ,which was witnessing a very high penetration of the drugs as smugglers are using the 360-km porous border and new means like drones.
The narcotics coming from Pakistan and Afghanistan are gradually reaching Himachal.
“We are now getting financial investigation done to identify the kingpin of the racket and peddlers within the state while those operating from outside are also under the radar” said Himachal Pradesh deputy Chief Minister
He admitted that drugs had penetrated every nook and corner of the state, including tribal areas of the state. The peddlers are mostly targeting the youths and teenagers. They are lured to drugs initially just for a kick but later they themselves turn peddlers to fund their own doses.
As per records with the state’s Narcotics bureau in the police, nearly 4450 persons, including 79 women were arrested under the NDPS Act in the past 18 months .The police seized 7.18 kg of Chitta from their possession in 2022 and another 11.50 kg this year.
“We have written to the Centre so that the arrest of those with 5 gm of ‘chitta’ be made non-bailable,” he added.
Due to a massive drive started by the police to arrest drug peddlers , the jails in the state are almost packed with persons, including women, engaged in the drug trafficking.
To break the back of the smugglers arrested with a huge consignment of chitta in Himachal Pradesh, the government will confiscate properties worth Rs 45 crores . The police department has decided to hand over such cases to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for financial investigations.
Says Atul Fulzele, Inspector General of Police (IGP) ,Border Security Force’s Punjab Frontier headquartered(Jalandhar) “Initially drug smuggling from Pakistan remained confined to land but use of aerial mode—the drones, the unmanned flying machines, has emerged as a significant threat for the law enforcement agencies. More than 35 drones were also shot down by the BSF yet the drug smugglers find new ways”
As per him the drug smuggling is a state-sponsored crime involving both Pakistan and Afghanistan. “We are fully geared-up and have a marvellous record of successful operations against smugglers”
The serious dimension to the problem is also drug overdose deaths happening frequently in Punjab and also Himachal Pradesh though some parents remain on a denial mode not reporting such deaths to the police.
Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu,who last week attended a north-zone inter-state council meeting at Amritsar ,which union home minister Amit Shah presided over, asked for a collaborative action by the states of the region to deal with the drug problem, beside the centre backing the drive.