In Punjab, 1 gm of heroin costs about Rs 2,000, making it a rich man’s drug. For long, Punjab has been a key base for smuggled heroin that comes into India from the Golden Crescent (Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan). Smugglers live in border villages and heroin is simply pushed through the electrified barbed fences.
“The most common practice is to throw the contraband across the fence at pre-designated spots. The other method is to slip packets of heroin through 10- to 12-foot-long plastic pipes that are slid though the fence from the Pakistan side. The pipe is emptied on the Punjab side and and then pulled back. We have also had cases of Pakistanis snorkeling their way through the Sutlej and Ravi into Punjab with contraband,” says Ananya Gautam, DIG, counter-intelligence in Punjab police.
The choice of drugs in rural Punjab, it comes from Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh through inter-state borders. In Rajasthan, poppy is grown on government-licenced fields and the husk is diverted to Punjab. “Villagers have been caught smuggling bags full of poppy husk from Rajasthan,” says Yadav.
Punjab has in recent years become a hub for the manufacture and supply of ice, a party drug with markets in Canada, USA, Europe and Australia. Its raw materials are ephedrine and pseudo-ephedrine — regulated chemicals that are used to make pain-killers and cough syrups — which are diverted from pharmaceutical firms.
The arrest of NRI Anoop Singh Kahlon in March 2013 led the police to more than 50 people who are allegedly involved in the manufacture and supply of the drug to markets in Canada and Holland.
Patiala SSP Hardayal Singh Mann, who is credited with smashing the ice network in Punjab, says smugglers ensure ice consignments are “vacuum-packed so that it is not detected by sniffer dogs. The packets are hidden within picture frames or laced with banana powder.”
Various pills, capsules, injections and tablets are misused in a big way across the state. Easily available over-the-counter drugs, pain-killers and cough syrups are the most widely abused.