Makeshift or mobile labs, cooks on hire: Crystal meth traders find new tools to avoid raids in Mumbai

Crystal meth, also known as ice and chalk, is white, odourless crystalline powder which is an extremely addictive stimulant

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai | Published:November 14, 2016 2:58 am

COOKING METH no longer requires a well-settled laboratory, regular employees or even expensive equipment. Officers tracking the narcotics trade have observed a new trend of “makeshift laboratories” emerging in the past several months in and around Mumbai. According to officers, Drug Trade Organisations (DTO) dealing in Methamphetamine — crystal meth as it is better known — now operate by renting a place for 1-2 days, convert it into a ‘makeshift laboratory’, use inexpensive resources available in households that can be destroyed after cooking and even bring cooks on hire from outside Mumbai. All this to ensure that there is no single fixed ‘hideout’ busted by the police.

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Crystal meth, also known as ice and chalk, is white, odourless crystalline powder which is an extremely addictive stimulant. The drug can be taken orally, smoked, snorted, or dissolved in water or alcohol and injected, which leads to states of intense euphoria. The euphoria is however followed by a ‘crash’ where the user goes through a phase of extreme low. The synthetic drug, at some point during the past two years, was much more in demand than the traditional drugs like cocaine, owing to its easy availability and low prices as compared to cocaine.
An officer said that they have been busting meth labs over the past few years. “Earlier, all we had to do was get the address of the meth lab, and raid it. Most of these labs would normally be on the outskirts of the city like the Mira-Bhayander stretch or even places like Asangaon in the adjacent Thane district.”

“Later, especially in the past one or two years, when we raided places where we had information of meth being cooked, we found nothing there. On further investigation we found that over the past year, rather than opting for fixed laboratory that could be busted, the DTOs have started using ‘makeshift laboratories’ that could be dismantled in a day or two after cooking,” an NCB officer told The Indian Express requesting anonymity.

Explaining how it works, the officer said that the DTOs take a room on rent for a few days. Then arrangements are made for cooking the meth. Rather than going for expensive equipment, they opt for household items and destroy them after the

cooking. Cooks are hired from outside the city. After striking a deal with them, they would come to the city for two days, cook meth and leave.

“Even if we managed to nab one of the cooks, they will lead us to this place which will have no traces of meth having been cooked there. There is an effort made to ensure that the various players know only as much as they need to know. They want to minimise their damage even if one of them is arrested. Also it is more economical for them,” the officer explained.

What makes it all the more popular with drug dealers is that they manage to procure the main chemicals needed easily. The basic ingredients comprise relatively inexpensive over-the-counter cold medicine pills that can be used as ‘pseudo’ to cook meth. They also procure it from networks they form with some corrupt pharmaceutical company employee who gets a cut for supplying the raw material. The officer added, “Seeing this change in their modus operandi, we too have made changes to the way we probe these cases. So far we have managed to keep them under check.”