India: National Customs Academy rolling out UNODC developed  Computer Based Training  in drug law enforcement

Transnational drug trafficking is a global concern with drug traffickers using latest technologies to avoid detection at land borders, airports and seaports by Customs officers. Traffickers use innocuous couriers and adopt novel modus operandi to smuggle drugs - inter alia.  The Indian Customs, in addition to its primary function of revenue collection also actively takes preventive action against smuggling of contraband and narcotic drugs. Customs officers collect intelligence information from various sources to interdict narcotic drugs under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.  The National Academy of Customs, Excise and Narcotics (NACEN), is the key Indian Government institution which imparts training to all officers of the Customs, Central Excise, Service tax and Narcotics departments.

Since 2008, NACEN and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) are cooperating under a joint regional project on "Strengthening drug law enforcement capacities in South Asia".  So far, nearly 50 Master trainers and 450 officers have been trained in the region on drug law enforcement.  Over the last years UNODC has developed computer based training (CBT) on drug law enforcement. This global training tool applies a problem-solving and interactive approach and is managed by a Learning Management System (LMS). It covers 65 relevant topics, including the review of passport for land controls and airports; behavioral indicators at airports and questioning persons at seaports/airports. The subjects are divided into 5 chapters: i) interdiction techniques for land controls, ii) interdiction techniques at airports, iii) interdiction techniques at sea ports, iv) intelligence and controlled delivery and v) money laundering.

The UNODC CBT in drug law enforcement is already used in over 52 countries and in 300 established CBT centres worldwide. Early this year, the Bangkok-based UNODC CBT team came to India to present to relevant Government counterparts the UNODC learning tool. NACEN immediately agreed to utilise the CBT programme to train its officers and enhance their skills in narcotics interdiction recognizing the global value of the tool.  After some preparatory discussions, on 10 August, NACEN and UNODC signed an agreement on the implementation of the UNODC CBT module for drug law enforcement officers in India through NACEN in its main campus in Faridabad as well as in its nine regional centers. The signing ceremony took place at NACEN Faridabad and was attended by NACEN and UN officials including 120 probationers of the Indian Revenue Service, followed by a training of the future CBT master trainers.

Mr. Anil Bhatnagar, Director General, NACEN, who was present at the signing ceremony along with Ms. Cristina Albertin, UNODC Representative for South Asia, underlined the importance of the use of the UNODC CBT drug law enforcement training by saying "today's signing of the agreement helps build NACEN's brand in becoming a reputable training hub in border enforcement of customs, environment and narcotics. This Agreement will go a long way in improving drug law interdiction training programmes for the officers of the Indian Revenue Service. They are not merely revenue officers concerned with collection of taxes. They also protect the health of the nation and the future generation by fighting drug trafficking."

The strength of the Customs Department alone is 72,000 and the CBT will help train up to 3,000 officers every year.  Mr. Varat Phongthirasuwan, UNODC Information Technology Consultant for CBT, who has come to India as the main CBT trainer, says "the end result is learning that includes high quality voice, pictures, graphics, videos, animations, interactions, simulations and tests in the users own language and the CBT centres operate in a network environment."

According to Mr. Rod Curtis, Senior Law Enforcement Advisor CBT UNODC Regional Centre for East Asia Pacific in Bangkok, who was also present at the event, the important feature of this course is that it provides personalized  training allowing users to learn at their own pace and make mistakes in private.