Centre intensifies crackdown with aim to make India drug-free by 2047

6.7 lakh kilogrammes of seized drugs burnt down; 35,592 acres of poppy cultivation and 82,691 acres of cannabis cultivation destroyed across the country in the past three years; appraisal report of district police chiefs to be linked to action taken against drug menace 

Updated - April 23, 2023 07:37 am IST

Published - April 22, 2023 06:56 pm IST

Jharkhand Police personnel destroy illegal opium cultivation in the naxal affected areas under Murhu police station in Khunti district of Jharkhand. File

Jharkhand Police personnel destroy illegal opium cultivation in the naxal affected areas under Murhu police station in Khunti district of Jharkhand. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Opium and cannabis cultivation in area the size of over 89,000 football fields has been destroyed in the past three years as the Union government intensifies its crackdown against drugs.

Aiming to make India “drug-free” by 2047, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) plans to link recovery and usage of narcotics and banned substances in a particular area to the annual appraisal report of a District Superintendent of Police. This will bring accountability and fix responsibility, a senior government official said.

According to the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), in the past three years, 35,592 acres of poppy cultivation and 82,691 acres of cannabis cultivation has been destroyed across the country. The States where the crops were destroyed are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tripura, and Telangana.

Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren Singh told The Hindu that from March 20, 2022, to April 20 this year, 4305.1 acres of poppy cultivation in the State have been destroyed. In relation to this, as many as 110 cases have been registered and 40 persons arrested. Manipur has seen the highest-ever destruction of such crops in the past three years.

Mr. Singh said the State has launched alternate livelihood scheme for farmers growing poppy illegally, and also provides cash incentives to destroy the illegal crops.

“Farmers in Peh village of Ukhrul district were given a cash reward of ₹10 lakh for voluntarily destroying cultivated poppy. Winter hybrid vegetable seeds, saplings of pineapple, low chilling apple, and spices, including ginger and turmeric, were distributed to farmers. The scheme covered 600 farmers,” Mr. Singh said.

The MHA has constituted a study group to analyse the use of drones in the destruction of illegal crops in remote areas, and the NCB also shares satellite images with the affected States.

The NCB arrested 2,412 persons in the last three years, out of which 224 are foreigners.

The Ministry is encouraging the liberal application of the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (PITNDPS), 1988, which includes a provision to detain an individual for up to two years without a court’s intervention.

“Earlier, PITNDPS was not being used much. We have made the States aware that the provision needs to be used more often. As of now, more than 500 persons are detained across the country under the particular Section,” the official said. The orders can be passed by the Central Government or a State Government, or any officer of the Central Government not below the rank of a Joint Secretary.

The NCB said the use of the ‘dark net’ and crypto currency in illegal drugs is increasing, and in 2020, 2021 and 2022, the agency investigated 59 such cases. A sub-group on the counter-terrorism portal, the Multi Agency Centre (MAC), has been created to share inputs on the use of the dark net and crypto currency for trade in narcotics.

Following the directives by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, all States have created dedicated Anti-Narcotics Task Forces (ANTF). The first ever conference of State ANTFs was held on April 19-20. At the conference, Mr. Shah stressed the need to confiscate the property and assets of the accused for maximum deterrence.

Data shows that in 2022, the NCB conducted financial investigation into 33 such cases in which property worth ₹17 crore was frozen.

At the conference, the Minister said that unless seized drugs were destroyed through proper process, there will be chances of rotation of drugs due to corruption, adding that the destruction should be held in public. So far, 6.7 lakh kilogrammes of drugs have been burnt by government agencies.

Each recovery, seizure and arrest is plotted on an interactive map and placed on a centralised portal run by the NCB, the Central anti-narcotics agency.

On the National Narcotics Coordination portal (NCORD), the source and destination of drugs are highlighted too, and information up to the district levels is maintained. Another database, called NIDAAN, has the photographs, fingerprints, court orders, information and details of all suspects and convicts arrested under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act so far, which can be accessed by State and Central law enforcement agencies.

Officials have been asked to study court judgments that have led to acquittal of the accused and take remedial steps to enhance the conviction rate. Special training is being given to Public Prosecutors to handle such cases.

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