India's soaring drug problem: 455% rise in seizures

Last Updated: Fri, Jun 26, 2015 17:14 hrs

India has witnessed a five-time (455%) increase in drug hauls over three years, from 2011 to 2013, according to data released by the government to Parliament.

Officials have seized 105,173 tonnes of illegal drugs over this period, a reminder of a growing Indian problem on the international day against drug abuse and illicit trafficking, observed on June 26 by the United Nations (UN).

With nearly 18% of the world's population in the 15-64 age group, India is a prime market for illicit opiates originating in both South-East Asia and South-West Asia, according to the World Drug Report 2014.

The latest available data, from 2004, estimates that 10.7 million Indians–more than the population of Sweden–are drug users: 8.7 million consume cannabis and 2 million use opiates, according to a National Survey Report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Indian Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.

Mizoram, Punjab and Manipur are among the states where people are most vulnerable to drug abuse. One reason could be their proximity to porous international borders and international drug-trafficking zones, such as the "Golden Triangle" (Myanmar, Thailand and Laos) and "Golden Crescent" (Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan).

Source: Lok Sabha; Figures for 2014 as on Dec 9, 2014; units in tonnes

Mizoram tops the list of states where drugs were seized: 48,209 tonnes over the past four years, followed by Punjab with seizures of 39,064 tonnes.

Some of the drugs seized include amphetamine, cannabis plant, cocaine, ephedrine, ganja, hashish, heroin, ketamine, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), acetic anhydride, methylenedioxy-N-methylamphetamine (MDMA), methamphetamine, methaqualone (mandrax), morphine and opium.

Source: Lok Sabha; Figures for 2014 as on Dec 9, 2014

As many as 64,737 drug-trafficking cases have been reported in the past four years. Punjab tops the list with 21,549 cases registered over the same period.

Punjab accounted for almost half of all cases registered in India under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) in 2013 as we reported earlier: 67% of rural households in Punjab have one drug or alcohol addict, while 70% of young men are addicted to drugs or alcohol, according to a government report based on surveys.

In Manipur, there are an estimated 45,000-50,000 drug addicts of whom nearly half are injecting drug users.

Studies have also revealed that 12% of drug addicts are below the age of 15, as are 31% in the age group of 16-25 years and 56% in the age group of 25-35 years.

Source: Lok Sabha; Figures for 2014 as on July 22, 2014

As many as 64,302 people, including foreigners, were arrested on drug-trafficking charges across India over the past four years.

Nepalese are the most arrested foreign nationals: 266 arrests from 2011 to May 2014 followed by Nigerians (210) and Burmese (96).

In terms of drug smuggling, the India-Bangladesh border is most vulnerable with 1,607 cases reported from 2011 till June 2014, followed by India-Nepal (779), India-Myanmar (317) and India-Pakistan (120).

(Mallapur is a policy analyst with IndiaSpend.)

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