Drug Trafficking: A Growing Concern for India

    • By,
      Deep Vora – Student, Kautilya

India, with a population of 356 million people between the age of 10 and 24, is one of the youngest nations. According to the World Health Organization, drug misuse affects 25–90% of street children globally. Additionally, more than 5,000,000 street children are thought to be living and working on the streets of India in inhumane conditions where they face substantial risks of drug abuse. It is estimated that 25-29 percent of street children in India alone engage in drug abuse which is a disturbing truth of the nation. Every year on the 26th of June, to strengthen awareness and cooperation in achieving a world free of drug abuse the world celebrates “The International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking”. As a developing economy, India has multiple socio-economic challenges associated with drug usage such as consumption of opium, hash, and heroin which are of concern as ‘India is one of the major hubs for illicit drug trade’. India being the seventh largest country in the world shares its border with seven countries. Due to the porous nature of the border, infiltration of illicit drug trafficking from the Golden Triangle and the Golden Crescent is one of the most concerning issues that India is facing. Particularly Afghanistan and Myanmar, where political instability and economic crises have created favorable conditions for smugglers of drugs to operate. Around 80% of the world’s heroin and opium come from Afghanistan, along with a lot of hashish and a rising amount of inexpensive methamphetamine made from the native ephedra plant. Large-scale narcotics raids have often happened in India since the Taliban seized power in August 2021. Nearly 3,000 kg of heroin was seized at Mundra port in Gujarat which was one of the biggest such raids in India’s history. The synthetic drug problem is even worse on India’s northeastern border near the Shan state of Myanmar on India’s northern border because this region is the largest producer of illicit drugs within the infamous Golden Triangle, a triangular region where the borders of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand coincide. Due to this, the country’s border has become prone to drug trafficking. The Attari-Wagah route between India and Pakistan is the most prominent route for the illegal trafficking of opium users. Drug trafficking has increasingly become common in these areas due to a host of factors such as agricultural land across the border, a good network of roads and trains up to the borders, and various riverine portions. This well-oiled machinery of drug circulation creates a massive illicit market, amplifies social conflict breeds corruption, and affects socio-economic issues such as poverty, joblessness, and socio-political disturbances that further encourage drug consumption and use. The two-way illegal flow of these drugs violates India’s borders and poses a significant threat to national security.

In 2022 Malaysia, almost two tons of heroin and more than 630 million “yaba” meth pills went up in smoke at ceremonies in the commercial hub of Yangon and Laos witnessed one of Asia’s largest drug busts of 55 million Meth Tablets. If these drugs got into the market, they could begin a drug epidemic. It can also lead to child trafficking, child labor, and exploitation by criminals, which often results in poor mental and physical health in children, putting them at risk of drug abuse. Children’s involvement in crime is primarily due to socio-economic hardship and lack of opportunities, so the Indian government should pay attention through different initiatives like the “Integrated Child Protection Scheme”, and spread awareness based on targeting specific age groups to reduce drug usage among children and adolescents. To effectively address the drug abuse problem, the government should strengthen resistance programs to drug usage in the family, school, and healthcare communities adopting a community-level approach which looks at the problem of drug abuse holistically through the intertwined web of socio-economic status, instability, and geographical location as one of the reasons for increasing drug abuse among the youth population.

However, drug use and cases reported under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act of 1985 are rising despite increased law enforcement agency crackdowns on drug cartels in India. Now the most pertinent question is, does NDPS have enough teeth to handle India’s drug problem? Recent events show that the law has disrupted people’s lives, breached their privacy, and, most importantly, failed to address the nation’s drug problem So, interdisciplinary, integrated, and coordinated efforts, particularly involving active cooperation and interventions at the family and the community levels, is also needed.

Nevertheless, the problem of child opioid addiction requires urgent national attention. If this issue is not resolved, it will become an epidemic with larger implications for the economy and families, as well as significantly impacting the nation’s human capital and security. Therefore there is a need to focus on emphasizing the action against drug abuse among children and adolescents, which should be a sustained and coordinated effort by the government, and improve coordination between government departments with a clear remit for each state agency on developing and implementing policies and practices relating to containing the circulation and consumption of drugs.

It’s time for a new approach!

*The Kautilya School of Public Policy (KSPP) takes no institutional positions. The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views or positions of KSPP.