NEW DELHI: India has emerged as the biggest source of party drug Ketamine illicitly exported across the world, according to the 2012 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), prepared by Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs under the US Department of State.
The report says India's strategic location — situated between Southwest Asia (the Golden Crescent) and Southeast Asia (the Golden Triangle) — makes it an attractive transshipment area for contraband bound for Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and North America.
While much of the contraband like heroine, opium and cocaine come from abroad and use India as a transit point; Ketamine is largely sourced domestically.
The modus operandi, say Indian drug enforcement agencies sources, is illicit diversion of stocks engineered by licenced Ketamine manufacturers from states like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra. It is estimated that about four-five tonnes of ketamine go missing every year from legitimate production.
Significantly, only last month the Delhi zone of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) busted an international cartel, nabbing two Delhi exporters and seized over 650 kg of Ketamine. The duo was found to have exported large quantities of Ketamine to 11 countries in the past few years and their illicit trade is suspected to be worth close to Rs 500 crore.
The INCSR report notes: "India has become one of the main sources of Ketamine. Ketamine, a veterinary anesthesia, is not under international control, and the number of significant Ketamine seizures at major airports, in sea containers and in parcels continues to increase."
It adds, "India also manufactures organic and synthetic licit opiate/psychotropic pharmaceuticals (LOPPS). Destined for licit sales in markets around the world, these items (raw opium, chemical precursors, Ketamine, LOPPS) are vulnerable to diversion, including through illegally operating Internet pharmacies."
Sources in Indian drug enforcement agencies say the state machinery needs to closely monitor legitimate Ketamine production and stop illicit diversion. "The clandestine manufacture of Ketamine is a complex and costly process, therefore the main source of illicit Ketamine is through the diversion of legitimate pharmaceutical products," says a drug enforcement official.
The DRI officials say much of this diversion is taking place from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Maharashtra. "Himachal in particular has an industry-favourable tax regime that has led to proliferation of Ketamine manufacturing companies. Several of these firms have been found to be unscrupulously diverting Ketamine to illicit markets," said a DRI official.
While Ketamine sells for Rs 35,000 a kg, illicit export can fetch up to Rs 10 lakh for the same quantity. The cartel's net spreads far and wide involving international drug mafia and people from Customs and Directorate General of Foreign Trade, say DRI sources.
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