Drug addicts in Punjab are gradually getting attracted to medicine-based drug concoctions following a stepped-up clamp down on peddling of traditional narcotics, Home Minister Rajnath Singh was told today.
At a review meeting with Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) in New Delhi, the Home Minister discussed the narcotics scenario in Punjab and the steps taken to check the incidents of drug abuse.
NCB Director General Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar apprised Singh about the changing drug abuse pattern in Punjab and stressed that the "increase in street price of opiates due to less availability as a result of increased enforcement activities by drug law agencies are making addicts shift to pharmaceutical preparations like Tramadol, Buprenorphene etc," an official statement said.
Listing the steps taken to tackle the drug menace in Punjab, Bhatnagar told the Home Minister that the state police, BSF, Customs, and NCB have taken various steps.
BSF has augmented its manpower in border areas and increased its vigil by deploying improved technical aids. The exchanges of fire in the border and recovery of drugs have also acted as a deterrent against traffickers.
Punjab Police has established a State Narcotic Control Bureau and an apex committee under the Chief Minister for the holistic tackling of the problem. The Customs has also made recoveries of drugs in the border, he said.
The review meeting was in view of the BRICS heads of Drug Control Agencies 2nd Working Group Meeting scheduled to be held on 8 July here, the statement said.
The DG NCB made a presentation on the functioning of NCB, general drug scenario in the country and the ways and means for strengthening the drug law enforcement machinery.
He apprised the Home Minister that apart from traditional drugs like heroin and cannabis, newer drugs which are synthetic in nature are also entering the market.
Along with this, pharmaceutical drugs which are easily available and cheaper are now being abused widely. However, they do not fall under the purview of Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS) Act, the statement said.
The NCB DG also told the Home Minister that NCB undertook a drive to identify the areas of illicit cultivation of opium and cannabis and has destroyed these crops in coordination with state governments.
During the first six months of this year, a record destruction of 5,601 acres of opium cultivation was ensured, he added. He said that the government has also banned the sale of opium husk in 2016, which has led to the reduction of availability of opiates.
Increased surveillance by BSF and other agencies in the borders has also reduced the inflow of heroin and opiates, he said.
Informing the Home Minister about the functioning of NCB in the last two years, Bhatnagar said the Bureau has undertaken a large number of operations in coordination with other countries leading to the unearthing of 29 international drug syndicates.
He said the diversion of licit precursor chemicals into an illicit market for production of synthetic drugs is also emerging as a major challenge for all drug law enforcement agencies.
A total of 1,900 units producing precursor chemicals have been registered with NCB and these companies are now filing quarterly return on a regular basis and being monitored by NCB for domestic control.
These steps have effectively controlled the diversion and trafficking of precursors, he said.
With an aim of avoiding return of seized drugs into the market, the Supreme Court recently issued guidelines to dispose off all seized drugs at the earliest by all agencies, the NCB DG said.
Bhatnagar said the government has welcomed the guidelines and NCB has undertaken a drive to dispose off the drugs at the earliest. In this regard, he said that during last year, 2511 kgs of seized drugs were disposed off and in the first five months of this year, 1732 kgs have been disposed, marking a pro-rata increase of 75.85 per cent.
The Home Minister expressed his satisfaction on the steps being taken to tackle this menace by different drug law enforcement agencies. He also asked the agencies to ensure that all necessary steps be taken to further improve the situation, the statement said.