NCB, the lead nodal agency on drug enforcement, earlier had 13 zones and 13 sub zones spread in different parts of the country. According to home ministry officials, new zones will be set up and sub zones will be upgraded while a larger regional bureau at key locations in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Amritsar, Ahmedabad and Guwahati with additional manpower will be deployed.
“The increasing use of technology has given drug traffickers an edge where they can receive orders on darknet and order payments through cryptocurrencies. The prevailing narcotics use is emerging as a national threat,” said an official.
In the border states of Jammu and Kashmir, the NCB will set up a zonal centre in Kashmir while upgrading the existing Jammu sub zone. Similarly, in coastal states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra, the enforcement will be stringent with trained manpower deployed in the states, they added. As per the union home ministry data, narcotics worth ₹1,881 crore have been seized from 2018 to 2021, which is three times the value of drugs seized from 2011to 2014 (₹604 crore). The seizure of drugs along the Kerala, Gujarat and Mumbai coast have also increased manifold. In October this year, NCB seized 200 kg of heroin off the Kerala coast, allegedly linked to a Pakistan-based drug cartel, owned by Haji Salim.
Investigating agencies have further pointed to a rise in smuggling of heroin from Afghanistan after August 2021, when Taliban took control of that country. The southern route for trafficking of heroin from Afghanistan to Makran coast of Iran and Pakistan and then to various countries in the Indian Ocean Region, including India, has gained prominence over the last few years, as per the NCB.
Besides border states in north and south India, the agency is also trying to increase its presence in the northeastern states where porous borders are being used to smuggle large quantities of synthetic drugs from Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Besides a regional set up in Guwahati, the agency has been given nod to expand its footprint in New Jalpaiguri, Imphal, Itanagar and Agartala. Among other places, the NCB zones will come up in Raipur, Indore, Goa, Bengaluru, Visakhapatnam, Lucknow and Gorakhpur, which are fast emerging as the new markets of drug consumption. The Border Security Force (BSF) deployed along the India-Pakistan border this year reported more than 270 drone sightings, originating from Pakistan, out of which they brought down 18 drones carrying narcotics, arms and ammunition.