–Kakali Das |
In our country, 2nd October, this year, was historic, not because it was Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday but for two other reasons. Firstly, Paramhans Acharya announced to take Jal Samadhi if India isn’t declared Hindu Rashtra. But alas! He was put under house arrest. Otherwise he would have…! (Pun intended) But, nothing significant transpired after all the prior drama. And, secondly, a few young folks were allegedly getting high on a cruise in Mumbai. The ship was en route to Goa but then a raid followed. Aryan Khan, the eldest son of Shah Rukh Khan was taken in custody.
After the death of Sushant Singh Rajput, the country’s media hit another lottery. Main issues like hike in fuel prices, the incident in Lakhimpur, unemployment, etc. which this media anyway doesn’t cover, Khan junior has come to their aid. Once again, like last year, the media has got hold of the opportunity to distract the common mass from the real issues. It’s their hobby to snoop into the celebrity life that is addictive to them even more than busting the ‘real’ drug rackets. And people of this country also like to warm up their seats watching such glamorous news.
The story begins 15 days before 2nd October, when NCB gained lead on a cruise party to be attended by celebrity kids. On that very night, 22 NCB officers disguised as guests boarded the ship. According to the reports, there were 1800 people present in the cruise ship. When NCB raided, they found 13 “grams” of illegal substances. 8 people were detained. It’s nice they raided, but only to be misused by our TRP-greedy media (due to the involvement of SRK’s son). Moreover, we are all aware of the public perception which builds faster than the truth. And the relationship between Bollywood and drugs isn’t a new story anyway.
As per the NCB, out of the one detained, Arbaaz Merchantt had 6 grams of Charas on him, Munmun Dhamecha had 5 grams, and Aryan Khan had no contraband on him whatsoever. He was basically being charged with a possession or consumption of very small quantities of narcotics i.e. in this case is Marijuana.
First of all, the distinction among such substances should be noted. Until, 1985, Marijuana was legal but Rajiv Gandhi banned it under American pressure. So, Marijuana and Cocaine both have been treated similarly by the law since then. Whereas, interestingly, Baba Ramdev and Shashi Tharoor wants marijuana legalised especially for medicinal purpose.
The media showed interest in one situation but not in another. Their interest lies in seizing 30 grams and not in 3000 kilograms. To the unintended, 3000 kilograms of illegal hard substances (Afghan heroin) were seized in Adani operated Mundra Port two weeks ago, which has been considered as possibly the biggest ever single seizure of drugs in India that the DRI has recovered. May be, to the media and our law and order system, 30 “grams” have more weightage than 3000 “kilograms”. But, the question that arises is, will seizing 30 grams of drugs solve the massive drug problem in the country? Will getting hold of these tiny amounts put a halt to drug abuse, drug trafficking in the country? Or, should NCB have thoroughly investigated illegal substances seized at Adani port? Where are these thousand kgs of illegal substances coming from? These questions have been asked by the opposition and court as well. But, our godi media and the NCB are barely interested in these real but “non-glamorous”, “boring” questions or news.
Moreover, such large consignments to come to India point to two reasons – a) consumption, b) drug trafficking. And both the reasons are extremely dangerous. According to Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, India is a large market for illegal substances. In 2019 alone, there were 3.1 crore cannabis users, and 2.3 crore Opioid users (hard drug users). 77 lakhs used inhalants as per this report. Even imagining the usage of hard drugs i.e., LSD, Cocaine, Heroin by such massive population in the country is frightening. After planning for 15 days, 22 officers obtained 30-40 grams of illegal substances and arrested three people. It definitely garnered publicity, but did not address the actual problem.
India’s location is tricky as far as the trafficking of illegal substances is concerned. On the western side of India there are three countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan – which are known as ‘Golden Crescent’ in the trafficking world. And then, there are three countries such as, Burma, Laos and Thailand, collectively known as ‘Golden Triangle’, on the other side of India. The world’s 80% farming of Opium is done in Afghanistan, and are smuggled from there via Iran and Pakistan. The recent Rs. 21,000 crores worth illegal substances seized at Gujarat’s Mundra port arrived from Afghanistan via Iran. Second to Afghanistan, historically, in the world’s second largest production of opium is Myanmar. Though production in Myanmar has dropped recently as suppliers are switching to synthetics, but the illegal substances produced in Myanmar go to US, UK, China via Laos, Vietnam and India. So, India is sandwiched between Golden Crescent and Golden Triangle.
Obviously, as this trade is related to our borders, it also affects our national security. Gujarat, Rajasthan, Punjab, J&K are most affected by Golden Crescent. Punjab especially is in deep trouble. In Jammu and Kashmir, terrorist organisations are involved in trafficking of illegal substances. They transport it to Mumbai and ultimately exported to the rest of the world. For the terror groups, trafficking is the primary funding source. Besides, there is less vigilance on border with Myanmar as compared to the borders of China or Pakistan. There is an involvement of separatist organizations here. So, terrorists and separatists earn revenue by trafficking illegal substances.
In 1985, NDPS (Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances) Act was passed by the Rajiv Gandhi government, and to implement it, NCB was founded in 1986. NCB gains information from various sources like customs, BSF, CBI, etc. But the problem isn’t easy to solve. Does arresting Aryan Khan help in curbing this entire problem?
Interestingly, as per UN report, illegal substance usage has increased 30% in India in the last decade. The question here is, why hasn’t arresting Rhea Chakraborty, Aryan Khan and other Bollywood celebrities solved the country’s drug problem if these are the ‘big players’ who have kept drug racketing alive within the country? Why does the problem still persist?
According to Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, most arrests are related to ‘possession for personal use’. Of the 10,000 cases under the NDPS act, 99.9% were personal consumption i.e., smoking of substances like marijuana or ganja or weed, and not hard illegal substances such as Cocaine, LSD, Heroin etc. Sigh! Is India’s war against drugs fake? It seriously does seem so! The legal system in this country is functioning with the very ideas – arrest the consumers and not the suppliers – include marijuana in the list of hard drugs and not Cocaine, LSD etc. As per official reports, 3 crore Indians have been using cannabis (ganja in Northeast, bhang elsewhere), so will they all be arrested now? Where is the news on the arrest of the large suppliers?
Today, Aryan Khan is in the news, becoming a gossip for uncles and aunties sitting in their bedrooms. Jokes and memes are being shared, with some officer of NCB earning praise. While, on this side, the senseless, ruthless, unethical media has been covering the story relentlessly from the breakfast menu of Aryan in jail to even his toilet timings to its core, the large suppliers, on the other side, sitting in Afghanistan and Myanmar will be sending or finalising their next drug consignments, and some young folk on some corner of the country will be readying themselves to be addicted to these hard illegal substances.
Unless we target the hard drugs usage and break the supply chain in the first place, unveil who and where have these 3000 kilograms of illegal substances come from, and educate our youths about drugs and the problems associating it, and spread an awareness, India’s war against drugs would remain fake.