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NCB launches major crackdown against illegal drug operations in Punjab; posts new team in Amritsar

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: June 18, 2019  | 17:42 IST

New Delhi, Jun 18 (PTI) Security agencies are set to launch a multi-tier crackdown against traffickers and cross-border drug syndicates in Punjab, with the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) deploying a special team of sleuths in the state to undertake "coordinated" action against the illegal narcotics trade. The NCB, a federal agency to check drug abuse in the country, has for the first time posted a team of about 9-10 personnel that will be headed by a Deputy Director General (DDG)-rank officer, followed by a zonal director, two deputy directors, superintendents and intelligence officers, who will camp in Amritsar and operate from there for the next three months at least. Amritsar, at present, has a very small office of the agency as it is a sub-zone under the Chandigarh zone of the NCB and a junior rank officer heads the office there. With the new arrangement, the position of the office has been enhanced, a senior officer privy to the development told PTI. The team has been posted as a 'special temporary measure' after an order was issued recently by NCB Director General (DG) Abhay (who goes by his first name) at its headquarters here in the wake of the importance of the region to curb the drugs menace in the state and surrounding areas. The city that houses the historic Golden Temple is vital for the operation as it is well-connected by road and air, and a good amount of government machinery is present there, he said. The NCB DG recently toured the border town of Amritsar and other areas in Punjab and held coordination meetings with the two most important security agencies deployed to combat the narcotics menace in the state, the Punjab Police and the Border Security Force (BSF). It has been planned, the officer said, that the NCB will undertake fresh efforts and coordinate crackdown, along with the Punjab STF and the BSF, against drug traffickers and syndicates that operate along the India-Pakistan international border. "The special NCB team has been tasked to specifically target the trafficking in opioids like opium, heroin, poppy husk and cannabis, apart from checking diversion and abuse of pharmaceutical drugs, specially Tramadol," the officer said. Tramadol, a painkiller pharma drug, was declared a "psychotropic substance" by the central government in 2018 and it is also known as "ISIS drug' as evidence gathered across the globe suggests that it is used by fighters of the banned terror group. While the instances of cross-border drug parcel apprehensions have gone down in the recent past in Punjab, the drug abuse scenario is still worrisome. The new action plan is against this nexus and to break the backbone of the traffickers and narcotics mafia operating in the state, the officer said. He said the NCB DG, over the last few days, held high-level meetings with Punjab DGP Dinkar Gupta, the chief of the anti-narcotics special task force (STF) of state police, five Deputy Inspector Generals of the BSF based in Gurdaspur, Amritsar, Ferozepur, Abohar and the one tasked with intelligence at its headquarter in Jalandhar and three commandants of border guarding units. The BSF guards the 554-km India-Pakistan international border in Punjab. The NCB DG has also asked his special team to seize and forfeit assets of large drug trafficking operatives (DTOs) and refer cases of wider drugs smuggling and money laundering ramifications to its sister agency at the central level, the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The ED has recently created an STF for narcotics cases, the official said, and cases where complicity of government officials and others is detected with the drug mafia will be referred to the CBI for criminal probe. The results will be visible soon and the NCB will also use the rarely invoked forfeiture of assets power under the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (PIT-NDPS), the officer said. It will be a multi-level and multi-agency action, he added. As per latest figures, Punjab accounted for the maximum seizure of opium in the country in 2017 at over 505 kg, while it was second in the category of seizure of heroin at 406 kg after Gujarat's 1,017 kg during the same year. Lakhs of units of pharma-based injections and tablets, abused as drugs, were also seized in the state during the same period, along with over 41,000 kg of poppy husk, which is processed to make opiates and alkaloids. PTI NES IJT IJT

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