Since 2017, Gujarat has emerged as a “fertile landing ground” for narcotics from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran being smuggled by the international mafia. Sources in the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) say that the mafia is using the network of fugitive underworld designated terrorist Dawood Ibrahim, who has been pushing heroin from Pakistan and Afghanistan into India for a long time now.
The excessive and stringent surveillance near the Punjab border, the LOC in Jammu and Kashmir and along the Maharashtra coastline has forced the narcotics mafia to use the sea route and find new landing places for the consignment. “The sea route has become the most used route now as there is a stronger presence of the police and the security forces at the other points that were regularly used. Despite the heightened vigilance the mafia is continuing to land the narcotics in various parts of Gujarat,” said a source from DRI.
Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan are part of the golden crescent for narcotics smuggling and the area landlocked between these countries has become an international hub for opium. Besides, Gujarat’s proximity to Pakistan makes it an easy landing ground, said sources. The Gujarat coastline extends to 1650 kms.
Post the second wave of Covid-19, Gujarat has seen a sharp increase in narcotics smuggling across the state. Since June until November about 52 persons have been arrested and narcotics worth over Rs 10 crore has been seized by the local police and the Narcotics Control Bureau from various parts of Gujarat. The drugs were being transported through rail, air and road.
In May this year, the Anand Police seized 900 kilograms of ganja from plantations in Anand. The ganja was sown among the jowar (sorghum) crop.
The seizures from the ports are another story. In July 2017 a vessel belonging to the Coast Guard had been seized with 1500 kgs of heroin. In January 2020, about five Pakistani nationals were arrested in a mid-sea swoop by the Indian investigative agencies while they were trying to smuggle in drugs worth 175 crore into Gujarat. In April this year eight Pakistani nationals were arrested with heroin worth Rs 150 crore in the international market.
On September 16, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) found 2988 kgs of heroin in two containers at the Mundra Port in Kutch. Worth Rs 21,000 crore in the market, it was smuggled as semi processed talc stones. DRI has stated that it is one of the biggest seizures of narcotics in the country. The NIA is investigating this case.
Recently, the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad arrested three people from a village in Mori district with 120 kgs of heroin. The seized heroin is worth Rs 600 crore in the international market, DGP Ashish Bhatia had told the media. These drugs were smuggled by the sea and was reportedly sent by a resident of Pakistan, Zahir Bashir Baloch. The DRI has declared him as a wanted absconder in a 2019 case where 227 kgs of heroin was seized by them.
According to highly placed sources in the Gujarat NCB, the international mafia is turning to Gujarat as it had to reroute from its earlier landing points in Sri Lanka after the country reinstated the capital punishment for drug smugglers. In June 2019, the then Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena signed the death sentences for four people who had been convicted earlier in various cases of narcotics smuggling.
“This has turned the smugglers and the international mafia towards Indian shores. This is a deadly mafia they will keep looking for landing points. This is a big battle the Gujarat police and other agencies are up against,” said the source.
Speaking to Outlook, Gujarat ATS chief Himanshu Shukla said, “The vigilance is very strong along the Gujarat coastline and inside the state. This is the main reason for such large seizures.”
The NCB sources say that Pakistan’s ISI is using the network of the Dawood gang to smuggle narcotics via Gujarat. “Earlier the ISI was trying to smuggle fake Indian currency and now they have turned to narcotics. They are trying to land the drugs and then send the consignments by road to other parts of the country,” said the source.