The Customs and Central Excise Department will soon devise a set of procedures to prevent the illegal diversion of ketamine hydrochloride.
Highly placed officials told The Hindu that the department would prepare a list of manufacturers and distributors of the drug in the country and verify their stock and conduct periodic checks to prevent its illegal diversion.
Till 2011, there was rarely any restriction to possess, process or export ketamine hydrochloride or its more potent derivative, ketamine, under Indian law.
In February that year, the Union Ministry of Finance listed ketamine and its various ‘salts and preparations’ as psychotropic substances under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, 1985.
The statutory order said the Central government had found ‘overwhelming evidence’ of the chemical compound smuggled out of India being abused as a ‘rave party’ drug by youth in South East Asia, Europe, and the US and this could ‘cause strain in international relationships between India and other sovereign States.’
Investigators said the inclusion of ketamine in the NDPS list of drugs caused its price to shoot up in international black market from Rs.7.5 lakh to Rs.10 lakh a kg.
South East Asian drug cartels ran a network of middlemen in India to procure the ‘injectable’ veterinary medicine and extract its ketamine component through a simple reverse chemical process (ketamine hydrochloride if heated, the hydrochloride part will evaporate) in backyard laboratories in South India. The powdered drug is then smuggled abroad, now even to Canada and Amsterdam, through various airports and seaports in the country.