By Dhiren Sehgal and Armin Rosencranz*
Kashmir has joined Punjab as one of India’s two leading states in the consumption of and addiction to heroin. Both states border on Pakistan, one of the world’s main poppy exporters. The two leaders, Myanmar and Afghanistan, are also nearby. Poppies yield opium, morphine and heroin. The ascendancy of heroin in Punjab and its ties with organized crime have been widely reported. Kashmir’s capacity for heroin trafficking and addiction is on the rise and needs urgent attention from law enforcers and the media. Heroin can cripple an entire generation and culture indefinitely.
In the small town of Uri, near India’s Line of Control in Kashmir, a major drug operation, potentially worth a billion dollars, was busted by the Jammu and Kashmir State Police. Kameshwar Puri of the Jammu and Kashmir State Police intercepted a truck crossing the Line of Control border which was supposedly carrying 150 sacks of almonds from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir to Uri. Puri found that each of the 115 sacks contained a kilogram of acetyl morphine. Acetyl morphine is one of the three highly active metabolites of heroin. According to Puri, the 115 kilos of heroin seized was of an unadulterated pure form, which was to be proliferated into about 500 kilograms for further distribution and shipment to the United States and Europe.
On further analysis, the police found half of a pink afghan currency note attached to every brick of heroin in every sack. The currency bills were in a consecutive series with consecutive serial numbers on every bill, which was further cut into half in order to establish an organized tracking system for the drugs smuggled. The other halves of the currency bills were distributed all over India to match the bills together. This meant that each heroin brick was meant to be couriered to a different place in India. Heroin intended to be smuggled into Europe and the United States is being routed via Greece, India and the United Arab Emirates, and this system is ever-expanding.
The increasing opiate abuse in Kashmir is correlated to the trauma that Kashmiris have been subjected to by the virtue of growing up and living in an atmosphere flooded with violence and conflict. A psychiatric study conduct by the Government Medical College in Srinagar affirms the notion that around 70-80% of Kashmiris have been subjected to trauma and the increase in opiate abuse is one way to counter the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unlike in Punjab, people in Kashmir have much graver reasons for drug abuse, and it’s definitely not recreation: these victims of psychological trauma revert to drug abuse as their only resort when they’re unable to seek psychological assistance.
The problem is especially persistent in Kashmir due to the numerous Indian military organizations stationed there. These organizations apparently resort to unwarranted, arbitrary arrests and detain the locals. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 offers these military organs unaccountable privileges and enables them to make unwarranted arrests. These arbitrary detentions and unwarranted arrests often lead to the physical and mental abuse of those detained. This abuse and torture constitute the primary reasons for psychological trauma. As they receive no psychiatric help, these victims resort to drugs to cope with their PTSD.
India’s borders, notably in Kashmir, are being used as drug corridors which are leading to an eradication of culture. Easy availability is the main reason for the rise in the abuse and consumption of heroin in India. Given the onslaught of these challenges, border protection has become a necessity. There is an urgent need to reduce the demand and supply of heroin. This reduction can be achieved by breaking down the heroin problem into four critical elements:
- Legislative Measures – These measures are deemed a necessity to curb the drugs outpouring from our neighbors and ought to be stringent enough to act as a deterrent for drug traffickers. There are already certain legislation in the country, such as the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS), which have been enacted to prohibit and curb the cultivation, import, export and trafficking of heroin. The Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988, also allows for the detention of suspected traffickers. The enactment of such legislation has laid the groundwork for the Indian government to scratch the surface. However, more severe measures are required after witnessing an increase in these trends despite these enactments being in place.
- Voluntary Efforts – An integral part of this curbing process is to lower the levels of addiction and work towards the rehabilitation of addicts. Voluntary efforts are essential to curb drug dependence of addicts. There are at least 361 organizations voluntarily running approximately 375 de-addiction centers around the country. These organizations offer various intensive programs including detoxification, de-addiction, rehabilitation, education and awareness. Via these mechanisms, the demand has decreased but not substantially.
- Border Security and Vigilance – Time and again, government units have been urged to tighten border security to prevent this illicit trade. Adequate guarding personnel are required to strengthen surveillance along the borders. The government has been deluded by the belief that the drug consumption and trafficking has decreased when compared to previous timelines. There just doesn’t seem to be a state of urgency along the border lines to apprehend traffickers and consignments. When we take the examples of Myanmar and Punjab, it can be easily comprehended that border security just isn’t water tight enough to provide protection. Also, it seems that corruption and complicity within the government agencies is the biggest hindrance in tackling the drug problem.
- Cooperation and Alliance – The importance of cooperative international action to curb this issue has been realized, and as a result of which India has entered into multilateral agreements with Afghanistan (1990), Bangladesh (2006), Bhutan (2009), Myanmar (1993), and Pakistan (2011). India has signed the South Asian Regional Convention on Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1990; the BIMSTEC Convention on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, 1997; and the UN Transnational Organized Crime and Illicit Drug Trafficking efforts. There is no doubt that these multilateral and bilateral agreements do provide aid and collaborative opportunities for nations to combat this issue, but there are still glaring imperfections in these collaborative platforms and an underachievement of their respective aims. Call it political instability, incompetency, hostilities or petty politics, there no hiding from the inefficacy of the agreements to achieve what they seek to do.
Despite recognizing the likely effectiveness of these processes and procedures, there seems to be deliberate procrastination from the government’s side, which leads to a halt in the progress of these efforts.
The issue of drug trafficking should be made a high national priority, the coordination amongst multifarious agencies and state governments needs to be improved, and intelligence and information dissemination needs to revisited and strengthened.
There is a dire need to tackle the issue of corruption among the border security personnel, police and government agencies. The punitive measures need to be stringent enough to act as a deterrent for corruption and the involvement of state officials in this illicit trade. Also, incentive measures need to be formulated to encourage participation from police personnel to curb this trade. Apart from this, there must be further partnering, collaboration and strong cooperation from the states where these drugs are being produced, in order to curb this issue from its very roots.
Armin Rosencranz is a lawyer and political scientist. He is the founder of Pacific Environment, an international environmental NGO. He was formerly a trustee at Stanford University.
Dhiren Sehgal is a recent graduate of Jindal Global Law School, where he worked closely with Armin Rosencranz, Professor of Law.
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