Use of couriers to deliver narcotics increased 3-4x since pandemic: Gyaneshwar Singh

NCB Deputy Director Gyaneshwar Singh (responsible for the South West Region which includes Maharashtra) speaks with Mohamed Thaver about changing narcotics trends and the changing role of the agency .

Last year, the BCN was also involved, focusing on consumption cases, which included small amounts of narcotics. What is the current orientation of the agency?

The agency’s goal is to probe larger networks and end-to-end investigations. It is a niche organization targeting drug rings and supply chains. Therefore, the circulation of drugs on the street is not our responsibility and has never been our mandate. We also focus on coordinating with different agencies, keeping track of modus operandi changes, and updating technology as cartels evolve. A technological leap is as important as the implementation for the organization.

In some of the recent cases investigated by the NCB and other agencies, a pattern has been observed where young people from African countries like Ethiopia are used as mules by drug rings to smuggle narcotics through airports.

Yes, we have seen drug cartels like those selling cocaine from South America sending young people from African countries with narcotics as mules promising them sums like $1,000 per gram of cocaine smuggled. They do this to monitor airport security. Later, the young people are invited to marry Indian girls and then they use the girl and her relatives to smuggle drugs. This is also the trend we saw in a recent case when cocaine was recovered and one of the defendants arrived in the city via a flight from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

Another trend that has been popular over the past few years has been the use of courier companies and India Post for drug supply. Could you clarify this?

Yes, especially since Covid we have seen the phenomenon of contactless drug delivery as it is also safer for the supplier not to physically hand over the contraband. When we looked at the data, the use of courier companies to deliver medicine has increased four to five times since Covid.

What steps are you taking to limit the misuse of couriers and India Post for such purposes?

See that there are major courier companies that take every precaution to ensure that contraband does not get smuggled through their services. However, the main problem is in the middle and lower level courier services, where in some cases we even found that employees provided their Map of Adhar deliver goods if the shipper does not own them. So, we had meetings with several of these courier companies and even India Post, where we gave them a list of steps they should follow in order to ensure that their services are not misused.

In recent months, online portals have also been launched by the NCB. Could you clarify this?

Among other things, we also hope that the NCB will become a database organization, driven by data and technology. One of the portals that was inaugurated was the National Narcotics Coordination Portal (NCORD), which is a knowledge-based portal that can also be used by the common man. It will contain all the data of court judgments related to narcotics cases, related news and the measures we are taking in terms of capacity building. The second portal is the NIDAAN portal, which is a database of drug offenders that will be maintained by all agencies, which will help us in the investigation.

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