Odisha, still one of the poorest states in the country’s poverty index, is getting on a high. The sharp rise in narcotics trade and consumption in the state has baffled many. In just two years, the volume of heroine seized here has grown at an exponential 2058 per cent.
As per the data available with Odisha Police, seizures of heroin in the state have touched a mammoth 49.65 kg in 2021 compared to just 2.3 kg in 2019. In the first three months of the current year, the state police have already made seizures of around 6 kg of heroin.
"We catch bulk drug traders. In 2019, the seizure was in the range of 100 gm-300 gm per month. Last year, the average seizure was around 4 kg/per month," said an STF official in State Crime Branch. The rise in the seizure volume has been due to targeting of big drug peddlers, he added.
What Led To The Spurt in Heroin Trade
A look at the State Police data reveals the government had issued strict instruction to allow unhindered movement of vehicles carrying essential items like vegetables, fruits and foodgrains during restrictions triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. This led to laxity in checks and the consequent drop in seizures.
In March, 2020, (lock down started around mid-march), the total quantity of heroin seized was 4.9kg. However, the quantity dropped to mere 300-400 gm in April-May 2020. The volume of seizure jumped to 4.9 kg in June as soon as the police were unburdened from lockdown duties. The same trend was seen during the lockdown following the second wave of Covid 19. During the first lockdown month of May, the seizure quantity had been 3.03 kg. However, in June when police had been kept off lockdown duties, the seizure jumped to over 8 kg.
Odisha police tasted success in busting the proliferating narcotics trade over last two years when senior IPS officer Abhay had been at the helm of the State Police. For his stint as DG Narcotics Control Bureau, Abhay carried with him the nuances and tact of the top anti-drug agency.
"After taking over the reins of Odisha Police in December 2019, Abhay had perked up the mechanisms of intelligence gathering and dissemination. The State Police first analyzed the seizure data of last five years to study the trends and the modus operandi of bulk drug peddlers," said a top STF official.
After collating necessary intel inputs, a special unit in the Special Task Force (STF) was formed to exclusively deal with the narcotics trade. The narcotics unit is a 27-strong body to bust the drug routes running through the state and beyond the state boundaries. Nearly 80 per cent of the bulk seizures in the State have been made by the STF. After retirement, Abhay is helming the State-Level Task Force against narcotics trade.
Heroin is considered a very expensive narcotics. Police officials link the increased volume of seizure of the contraband to the rising per capita income of the State. "This narcotics is highly expensive. 100 gm of heroin costs around Rs 48,000-Rs50,000. The seizure of over 3.5 kg of heroine in Nayagarh district early this year has alarmed the STF. Moreover, police investigation revealed that the consignment was meant to be delivered inside the State which shows the emergence of a consumer base for such costly narcotics," observed an STF official.
Odisha is not a producer state of heroin. The contraband is shipped into the State from neighbouring West Bengal. The drug comes to West Bengal from Pakistan-Afghanistan via Bangladesh and from Myanmar via North-Eastern states, the STF official informed.
Odisha 'High' On Narcotic Map
As per the state police data, while Odisha has emerged as the top cannabis (Ganja) supplier in the country, it figures in the top-10 list of states where heroin seizure had been high last year. The data with the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) reveals that Odisha accounts for nearly 1.6 per cent of total heroin seizures made nationally in 2021.
On Udta Punjab Way?
Since 1961 UN Convention has listed heroine as a dangerously addictive drug, the explosive seizure rate of the contraband in the state shows high consumption of the drug and its addiction.
The year-on-year growth of the seizures of this highly addictive narcotics indicates that drug intake among teenagers is on the rise. Unless effective steps are taken to check it, the State may chug on the highway of Udta Punjab. The task, therefore, is cut out for the Abhay-led State Level Task Force on Narco trade.