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India is a major drug hub: US
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18 September 2007
The US has named India as one of 20 major hubs for trafficking in illegal drugs, but Indian enforcement officials maintain the problem is not epidemic and that mandatory controls are in place.
An annual US government report has included India among "certain countries where exceptional factors are at play", noting however that it has an "exemplary record" in controlling legal opium production. Licensed farmers are now issued "smart cards" to enable the government to keep a better track of cultivation.
But Indian officials have uncovered "surprisingly large illicit cultivation" in areas where the problem was thought to be a thing of the past, Christy McCampbell, deputy assistant secretary for international narcotics at the State department, told reporters in Washington, explaining how India got on the majors list that also includes Pakistan, Afghanistan and Myanmar.
McCampbell noted, "The reason that India is on the majors list is they do have a large problem of diversion of chemicals there and of opium production. Because of the diversion from their licit opium that they do grow, it's finding its way to the illicit market. As much as 30 percent of their opium is being diverted, we believe.
"And so that is why I guess you could consider that both a transit and a producing country because of the opium that is going into the diverted markets," she said. Drug enforcement officials in India insist the situation has not assumed alarming proportions.
"India's name is included in the US annual report possibly because it is situated in the peripheral region of the Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent countries that produce a huge amount of illegal drugs," said Rajiv Walia, project coordinator with the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
"India is one of the countries currently producing licit opium for medical and scientific purposes. Though certain quantities do flow into the illicit channel despite the best controls, the problem is not epidemic. The Indian government is keeping a strict vigil," Walia told media.
Refuting the findings of the US report, a Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) official said, "We don't know about the source of their findings but it is very difficult to determine about the percentage of cultivated drugs going into illicit markets.
"Our estimate suggests that only 5-6 per cent reaches the wrong hands," the official said on condition of anonymity. Walia added that there was no parameter to provide accurate percentage of drugs being siphoned off for illegal trade.
A senior Delhi Police official, however, admitted that India was indeed emerging as a transit point for drug trafficking.
"An average of 10 tonnes of heroin have been smuggled into India every year over the past decade. Some of it was smuggled from Maynmar and the rest from Afghanistan via Pakistan. Delhi is used both as a market as well as a transit point for drug trafficking," the police official said.
The trend has also forced drug enforcement agencies to further tighten controls. And their efforts have been lauded in the US report.
"India produces significant amounts of opium poppy for legitimate pharmaceutical purposes. Although it maintains tight controls on the industry to deter the diversion of the legal narcotics and raw materials to illegal markets, the potential diversion of this crop for illicit purposes is a continuing concern to the US," McCampbell said.
"Recently, Indian officials discovered and destroyed very large fields of poppy grown in areas where before, we thought there was no illicit cultivation. We encourage very much the Indian officials to investigate this matter and to prosecute those behind this surprisingly large and disquieting find," she added.
Other countries included in the majors US list for the last two years are: Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Haiti, Jamaica, Laos, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Venezuela.