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Mundra’s infamy: Narcotic destination

A. J. Philip A. J. Philip
27 Sep 2021

Recently, I saw a video in which a business journalist explains what all he saw at the Mundra port in the Kutch district in Gujarat. It is a state-of-the-art seaport with all the facilities that a modern port should have. I visited the public sector Paradip Port in Jagatsinghpur district in Odisha, which was still under construction about 15 years ago. I could notice a perceptible difference between the two ports.

The Mundra port, known as Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone (APSEZ), is owned and managed by the Gautam Adani-run conglomerate.  All newspaper-reading people know who Adani is. He is the rising star of Indian business. If anyone in India can call himself close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it is Adani.

Like Modi, who was little known outside of the RSS circles in Gujarat before he became chief minister,  Adani was nothing more than an upcoming businessman, full of ideas. His career and that of Modi had a lot in common. In fact, both took off around the same time. To say that no business can succeed without state patronage is to state the obvious.

By the time Modi established his credentials, by hook or by crook, as a successful chief minister, Adani had begun rubbing shoulders with the Mahindras, Birlas and Tatas. And when Modi managed to become the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, edging out the likes of LK Advani,  the late Arun Jaitley and Murli Manohar Joshi, Adani was in a position to provide at his disposal an aircraft with pilot and fuel to address election rallies in the country from Andamans to Ahmedabad and Tezpur to Thiruvananthapuram.

The moment Modi became the Prime Minister, there was a sudden transformation in the fortunes of Adani. The last six years saw him controlling airport after airport and building ports at Mundra and Vizhinjam in Kerala, for instance. At the rate at which he and his companies grow, Adani will become the Numero Uno of Indian industrialists.

Alas, his Mundra port was in the news recently, not for the records in business turnover it achieved or in the volume of containers the port handled. It created an all-time record when the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence seized two consignments of heroin weighing a total of 2,988.21 kg.  It is the first time such a large quantity of heroin was seized in the country. 

The per kg value of heroin varies from Rs 5 crore to Rs 7 crore.  On a rough estimate, it is valued at Rs 20,000 crore. Incidentally, Modi’s Central Vista project is also estimated at Rs 20,000 crore.

I am neither hinting nor suggesting that the political leadership has anything to do with heroin smuggling. In fact, I tend to believe what Adani group has said in a Press statement that as port owners they do not have the power to check consignments. That right vests with government agencies like the Customs and the Revenue Intelligence.

What Adani says could indeed be true. The consignment was addressed to Aashi Trading Company, owned by a couple in the South. It is the second time that the company received a similar consignment. It was sent as Talc. The consignment originated at Nimruz in Afghanistan where Talc is not produced.

It now transpires that S. Sudhakar and his wife Durga Purna are small-time operators and they received a pittance for letting the consignment reach India in their name. Someone else is certainly behind the smuggling.

During the raids conducted by the authorities concerned, 16.1 kg of heroin was seized from a godown in Delhi. Cocaine weighing 10.2 kg and heroin weighing 11 kg were seized from a residential building in Noida. The point to be noted is that a large consignment allegedly imported by the couple for the first time would have reached the middlemen and the end-users.

We do not know how much narcotics have reached India through the Mundra port.  There are other ports also. We know the enormity of the smuggling only because the DRI was tipped off by someone to warrant opening and checking the contents in the two consignments received early this month. Otherwise, the whole quantity of drugs would have been consumed in India.

The point to be noted is that India has become a major destination for heroin and cocaine. It is a reflection of the failure of the government that the smugglers made bold to send such large consignments. About 80 per cent of the heroin and cocaine production happens in Afghanistan. In fact, it is the income from the drug sale that has been helping the Taliban to run its war machine during the 20 years that the US and other Western forces controlled Kabul and large swathes of Afghanistan.

It is a matter of grave concern that drugs have become a big issue in India. Few are, however, aware about it. About 15 years ago, when I was with The Tribune, a newspaper group, we organised a meeting of our readers at Kharar near Chandigarh. My idea was to seek their views on how we could improve local reporting. Basically, I wanted local story ideas from them.

The invitation evoked a good response. It was the first time that they were invited by the newspaper for a meeting which ended with vegetarian lunch for all the participants. Almost everyone who attended the meeting told me that their biggest problem was the use of drugs by the youth.

They took me to the rear side of the school where the meeting was held to show me Iodex bottles thrown away by the students. It was the first time I heard that one way of getting a kick was to apply iodex ointment like jam on bread and eat it. We were told that drugs like heroin were available in the small town.

I have not seen but heard about a film on Punjab which discusses the problem of drug use in the state. On a visit to a school started by former police officer Kiran Bedi’s husband at Amritsar, I was introduced to some persons who would eat scorpions to get kicks. De-addiction centres are dime a dozen in Punjab.

Most of them are run more to make money than to free the young men from addiction. Often, third-degree methods are applied to control the drug addicts who show violent withdrawal symptoms. I do not know whether the situation has improved or not.  My speculation is that it could have only deteriorated.

In Kerala, the Bishop of Pala, Joseph Kallarangatt, who belongs to the Syro-Malabar denomination of the Catholic Church created a political stir when he referred to the Narcotic Jihad some Muslim men were directing against Catholic women. If he had not used the religious term Jihad, used only by the Muslims, nobody would have found any objection in his statement. Every now and then,  newspapers report about large night parties where drugs were suspected to have been used.

Nobody can deny the fact that the use of drugs has been on the increase. Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan gave details of the narcotic cases reported from the state. The reports suggest that Muslims are not the only ones who trade in narcotics. Hindus and. Christians are equally involved in it.

In fact, their involvement is almost proportional to their population size. It makes little difference whether more Hindus consume drugs than Muslims or Christians. What is alarming is that the use of drugs has been on the rise.

If anyone thought that drug cartels existed only in South America or North American countries, they are sadly mistaken. Even they could not have ever imported 3,000 kg of heroin in one go. Even Mario Puzo, who authored the great crime book, The Godfather, which became a great movie directed by Francis Ford Coppola, could not visualise anyone importing so much quantity in a single shipping.

The South American drug cartel controlled by Joaquin Guzman could have only dreamed about such a consignment. We do not know who was behind the import. The South Indian couple reportedly received Rs 3 lakh for lending their address. Most probably, they may be clueless about the real persons with contacts in Afghanistan.

The DRI or the police might never get the details of the syndicate that is capable of handling 3000 kg of heroin and selling it in the black market. It goes without saying that they cannot operate without the support of political and bureaucratic heavyweights.

In the present case, too, there is the involvement of money launderers. Who could have paid the Afghans so much money to obtain and send the consignment to India? Who would pay the buyer the necessary money? Obviously, some hidden hands with access to enormous sums of black money are involved in the import and distribution. 

It is not the first time that hawala operators are in the news. When the infamous Jain Diary was obtained by the police and details of the money paid to various political leaders tumbled out, there were some leaders who admitted that they had indeed received the payments. Among those whose names figured in the diary was that of BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani.

He underwent what was called the agnipariksha of resignation from the Rajya Sabha to prove that his hands were clean. The Jains were also the ones who financed the jihadis in Kashmir. We do not know whether the Prime Minister would show the courage to order a thorough enquiry to bring out all the truths about the import of such a large quantity of heroin.

Modi has a moral obligation to do so. He was the one who promised the nation that if he came to power he would have all the Indian money stashed away in foreign banks transferred back to India and every Indian citizen would benefit to the tune of over Rs 15 lakhs. He is also the one who summoned up courage to demonetise Rs 1000 and Rs 500 currency notes to root out black money in circulation.

Black money has not been touched. That is for sure. Elections to Parliament and legislative assemblies have witnessed the ruling BJP spending hundreds of crores of rupees. There is a scandal in Kerala where in the last Assembly elections the party spent huge sums of black money.  Nobody knows the source of these funds. It is in this context that suspicions arise.

Nobody can dispute that India is now a major user of narcotic substances. Unlike in the West where citizens are allowed to buy such substances in small quantities, their sale and use are totally banned in India. When a film star allegedly committed suicide in Mumbai, there were reports that he was a user of drugs.

Drugs can kill a person. All over the world, the users of drugs are mostly young men and women. Once a person starts using drugs, he or she will not be able to leave the habit. That is why the drug dealers entice the youth by providing them drugs free of cost or at reduced rates for they know that they will eventually become addicts and buy it at any price.

One needs to worry about the future of our young men and women if so much narcotic substances are made available for their use. There is no better way to destroy a country than by destroying the youth. Those behind it may be terrorists or lucre-loving businessmen. We do not know who they are.

It is for the government to order a thorough inquiry into the whole episode. The inquiry should reveal how many such consignments passed through the Adani port, who were the real consignees and where all the drugs were sold or distributed. It is a Himalayan task worth taking up for at stake is the future of the youth and thereby the nation. Will Narendra Modi show the courage to do so?

ajphilip@gmail.com

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