For elite pub hoppers in Hyderabad, a star hotel at Banjara Hills Road No 3 used to be a favourite haunt. Recently, while the kin of prominent filmstars, bureaucrats, politicians and rich businessmen were partying at this place, the Hyderabad police conducted a raid. Though the party-goers were brought to the police station straight from the dancing floor, some of their parents later expressed their happiness about the police action. The reason: they want their families to recover from drug abuse.
This once again led to discussions that the capital of Telangana was possibly emerging as a primary conduit for drug trafficking in the country. The police suspect that many high-end pubs and star hotels have become hubs for narcotic drugs, despite “strict surveillance” by them and the central anti-narcotics units.
The unearthing of drugs by different law-enforcement agencies in the city has caused concern among a section in the government that the actions of enforcement agencies, especially the Telangana police, will impact the brand image of Hyderabad. However, many senior officials, including of the Telangana police, feel that this is the right time to curb the drug abuse, which could become a menace in the future if not controlled now.
“Investors coming to the State will feel safer if the Telangana government deals with the issue with an iron hand. We all have seen how a few States in north India are now facing the consequences of going soft against drug usage. They are unable to control it because a huge population in those States have become drug addicts,” Hyderabad Commissioner of Police C.V. Anand said.
With a growing number of expats, visas are being issued easily, a Customs officials said. Investigators believe that Internet-based end-to-end encrypted messaging mobile applications have provided a secure communications network for the drug cartels, middlemen and the abusers. After the arrest of over half-a-dozen foreign national drug carriers, mostly Tanzanian nationals, and the seizure of huge quantities of heroin and cocaine, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and Customs officials believe that the contraband smuggled from African countries was meant to be supplied to peddlers and abusers in Delhi, Jaipur and other major cities in north India, but not to Hyderabad.
In the last couple of weeks, enforcement officials at the airport seized a huge quantity of heroin valued at around ₹120 crore and cocaine worth ₹95 crore in the grey market. The foreign nationals either smuggled the cocaine by swallowing capsules or by concealing the powder material in their check-in or hand baggage. The city airport is being used as a safe transit point by the drug cartels in Africa as the surveillance “is low” when compared to other international airports in the country, said Customs officials.
Now Mr. Anand is trying to bring coordination among all the agencies which work against drug smuggling, including central agencies such as Customs, the Enforcement Directorate, the DRI, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), the Central Industrial Security Force, and the Intelligence Bureau, apart from Telangana Police’s Counter-Intelligence Cell.
NCB officials estimate that there are around 10 crore drug users in India, with a 70% increase in narcotic consumption in the past eight years. They said more than 70% of the drugs are smuggled into the country through international sea routes, while 20% comes through roadways and the rest by air.
Apart from law enforcement agencies, it is high time civil society and youth organisations also play a role in controlling this problem by educating people about drug abuse.