Friday, 12 February 2016

Skeletal NCB team battling drug menace in Punjab; Courtesy The Millennium Post


Courtesy The Millennium Post (Saurabh Sharma)

Skeletal NCB team battling drug menace in Punjab
11 February 2016, New Delhi, Saurabh Sharma
               
At a time when Punjab accounts for almost half of all the cases of drug trafficking in India, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) is functioning with just five officials in the state.
























Earlier, a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana high court had asked the Centre to spell out the steps it intended to initiate to strengthen the bureau. The NCB is one of the chief law enforcement and intelligence agencies in India whose sole responsibility is to fight drug trafficking and abuse of illegal substances.

Sources in NCB told Millennium Post that the agency was ill-equipped and had very little or no presence in the state to combat the serious challenge. “NCB has only five officials in the state, whereas, given the magnitude of the drug trade in Punjab the agency needs at least 40 to 50 officials with a separate intelligence unit in every district,” said a senior official.

Speaking on the intelligence operations, the official said that there are at least seven districts where the agency has to make its presence felt. “The NCB needs its intelligence units in Amritsar, Ambala, Bathinda, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Pathankot and Jalandhar to gather the intelligence information, however, as of now we have no presence due to shortage in manpower,” the official said.

Last year, he further said, the agency could register only 214 cases whereas the state police had registered more than 15,000 cases. “However, the primary job of the state police is to maintain law and order not drug trafficking. NCB failed in performing its job due to a serious resource crunch and poor infrastructure. It requires a complete overhaul in the state,” said the official.

Former Punjab DGP (Prisons) Shashi Kant recently claimed before the Punjab and Haryana high court that the drug menace had “deliberately been played down by the government in its projections despite the drug trade having risen to over Rs 1 lakh crore per year.” 

He further said: “The NCB was working with just five officials and when this issue came up for review during the hearing of my petition in the high court the NCB got 8 more officials from other departments on a temporarily basis. And, they are just field officers.”

Referring to the recent finding of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) which stated that India is among largest synthetic drug producing countries, the senior official said, “I think we have reached a stage when all the central agencies like NCB, DRI (Directorate of Revenue Intelligence) and ED (Enforcement Directorate) must swoop down in Punjab as it accounts for almost half of all the cases registered in India. We have urged the government to do a comprehensive study on drug trafficking with officials from all central anti-narcotics agencies; however, there is no response from the government as yet.”

Explaining the nature of the study, the official said that the study should focus more on the funding patterns of drug cartels. “The idea behind the study is to get the kingpins behind the multi- million dollar drug trade. And, for that we not only need to get information of local traffickers, but also on big players, who are controlling the drug trade.”

Insurmountable odds

  • NCB needs at least 40 to 50 officials in Punjab 
  • NCB needs to set up its offices in each districts
  • NCB needs to conduct a comprehensive study on Punjab's Drug trafficking 
  • All the offices should be well equipped to handle drug peddling in the State
  • NCB needs to have at least one intelligence unit in Amritsar, Ambala, Bathinda, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Pathankot and Jalandhar

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