The drug market in Delhi and in the national capital region is not only thriving around college campuses but has also become more organised, while the university authorities choose to remain in a state of denial. According to the police, the several cases of seizures of narcotics indicate the rampant sale of drugs across college campuses.

An investigation by The Sunday Guardian showed that from soft drugs such as ganja (weed) and charas (hashish) to stronger synthetic drugs like heroin, cocaine, LSD, ecstasy, crystal meth and the latest in town, Meow Meow, are being openly sold to students by peddlers.

“We have found that not only mild drugs like weed and hash, Delhi youth are getting into stronger drugs such as heroin and other party drugs as well. In several crackdowns done in collaboration with the police it was observed that the youth take such psychotropic substances prohibited under NDPS Act, as stimulants,” Madho Singh, director of the Delhi zone of the Narcotics Control Bureau told this correspondent.

THE HOTSPOTS 

During the investigation it was found that Delhi University’s North Campus, Challera village near Amity University in Noida, Madangiri village near Saheed Bhagat Singh College and Nalla (sewage) near Noida Film City are the hotspots where weed is brazenly sold.

Be it the stretch from the Vishwavidyalaya Metro station to the Faculty of Arts on North Campus or the tea joints outside gate number 2 of Amity University, students can be seen in small groups, brazenly crushing weed buds and rolling them into cigarettes during lunch hours or in the evening after classes.

“We smoke weed here daily. Everyone does and nobody gets caught. With so many students around it’s difficult to trace us. Also, it doesn’t smell so even the lecturers do not realise that we are high,” a first year engineering student of Amity University told this correspondent under the condition of anonymity.

It is very easy to locate a place to score (slang used for purchasing weed or hash) near the campuses. “Ask any rickshaw puller or auto driver and they will either direct you to the location or even offer to sell it right there with their added commission,” a student confirmed.

Offering to sell weed to this correspondent outside the Malviya Nagar Metro station, an auto driver said, “I can give you the stuff if you want, but I’ll charge Rs 100 for a Rs 60 packet. You can take my number and call me also when you need it in future.” 

He further claimed that one could get LSD and other chemical drugs in Khirki Extension, which is located at a walking distance from Malviya Nagar. “I have heard that a few black people (Africans) living in Khirki Extension sell hardcore drugs discreetly. But you need to have contacts for that,” the auto driver claimed.

The other spots where marijuana is traded openly are Nizamuddin, Subhash Nagar, Taimur Nagar, Govindpuri, Sector 22 in Noida and under the Okhla Flyover.

This drug market has also found a space on cyberspace. Even as the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 and the Drug and Cosmetics Rule 1945 prohibit the online sale of banned drugs, several e-commerce websites are selling weed and hash openly. 

AVAILABILITY

The drug market in the NCR has been expanding at unprecedented proportions. From on-spot sale to hassle-free home delivery, the availability of drugs has become very organised, modernised and convenient.

Students mostly approach rickshaw pullers and paan shop vendors to buy soft drugs. The paan shops across the city openly sell rolling papers, roach pads and even pre-rolled joints, where one can directly fill the crushed weed or hash. However, for more hardcore drugs the students find middlemen or the right contacts.

“A lot of students and young employees take weed from me. They have my number. They call me and tell me the time and location and I deliver it to them. I charge Rs 30-50 for every packet of weed depending on the time, location and quality,” confessed a rickshaw puller in Noida.

Talking to The Sunday Guardian, Dr Vijay, psychiatrist at Safe House Wellness Retreat said, “Where there is demand there is supply. Students and youths are not just the major target group but also act as middlemen and hence we see so many peddlers mushrooming in the vicinity of schools and colleges.” 

Dr Vijaya further pointed out that the college administrations are either oblivious of the situation or are in perpetual denial: “First of all, college administrations must accept and realise the magnitude of the problem and subsequently organise awareness events where an expert should be invited. Sitting at offices and denying reports of drug abuse by their college students or rusticating students in extreme cases does not serve the purpose.” 

This drug market has also found a space on cyberspace. Even as the Drugs and Cosmetics Act 1940 and the Drug and Cosmetics Rule 1945 prohibit the online sale of banned drugs, several e-commerce websites are selling weed and hash openly.

According to the NCB and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Indian drug space that had traditionally been limited to marijuana has now opened up to stronger synthetic drugs like LSD, MDMA and ketamine after the advent of the online black market. 

“From Afghani weed to LSD strips and from rolling papers to bongs (cylindrical vessel used for smoking marijuana), everything is available online. All you need to do is download a special browser and search for the URL,” claimed a source who once was a frequent customer of Silk Road, the famous online marketplace for psychotropic substances.

Popular as online black market, these websites can be accessed only through a special browser called Tor to avoid the traceability of the communication.

Developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Tor helps publish a website that ensures the developer complete anonymity. It also shields the individuals and data from surveillance.

Apart from Silk Road 3.0 (Silk Road and Silk Road 2.0 were shut down by FBI in 2013 and 2014, respectively) several companies advertise the discreet, safe and cheaper home delivery of banned drugs on various business-to-business marketplaces like I****M**t and S****a.com (asterisk added). These companies give fake addresses on their websites which makes it difficult for the enforcement agencies to trace them.

“These websites work as a darknet market, which means it is difficult to trace their location. They either hide their locations or show multiple locations through high level encrypting. They even use virtual money like Bitcoin, for the transactions. We need to upgrade our technologies to deal with them,” said Madho Singh.

 ‘The problem goes far beyond the realm of the violation of law. Parents today do not have time for their children and compensate that by showering money on their children. This has increased disposable income among the youth’.

DRUG EPIDEMIC 

The recent seizure of 23.5 metric tonnes of party drugs worth Rs 3,000 cr by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) indicates towards this drug menace turning into a potential epidemic.

This year NCB seized around 225 kilograms of narcotics like cocaine, heroin and hash during their 47 crackdowns in the NCR in the current fiscal—a rise of 34% compared to the last fiscal.

According to Madho Singh, India’s geographical location, also termed as Golden Crescent, makes it vulnerable to drug trafficking. He further noted that Delhi acts as a transit point for the import and export of these drugs and therefore several drug peddlers are seen mushrooming in this zone.

“States like Uttar Pradesh and Haryana have licensed cultivation of opium. The government buys the produces and directs it for medicinal purposes. However, on several occasions the farmers divert certain portions of the produce, which in turn are used to manufacture heroin and other drugs,” said Madho Singh.

Shishir Pinaki, advocate in Supreme Court, while talking to The Sunday Guardian pointed out that Indian laws on abuse of drugs and psychotropic substances are in line with global narcotics law. However, poor policing and corruption at multiple levels facilitate the black markets to establish their roots deeper into the country.

“The rule of law in case of abuse of psychotropic substance functions on a three-tier structure—prohibition, search and seizure, and prosecution. The problem comes at the investigation level, which transcends to prosecution. It becomes a vicious cycle and the purpose is lost,” Pinaki asserted.

Pinaki also called for specialised courts for prompt prosecution in drug trafficking cases. “Even the courts are over-burdened with the cases due to which a timely verdict on such cases becomes difficult. There must be a specialised court that deals with cases related to drug menace,” he said.

However, psychiatrists and psychologists believe that rising cases of substance abuse indicate a greater social problem and it must be seen beyond the purview of law and its enforcement.

“The problem goes far beyond the realm of the violation of law. Parents today do not have time for their children and compensate that by showering money on their children. This has increased disposable income among the youth. This, coupled with peer pressure, curiosity and social modelling is pushing the youth into drugs,” Dr Vijay said.

Meanwhile, Aam Admi Party MP from Punjab, Dharamvir Gandhi has moved a bill seeking the legalisation of cannabis. The bill has been cleared by the legislative branch of Parliament and is scheduled to be taken up in the ongoing session.

Commenting on the legalisation of soft drugs, Pinaki said, “Simply legalising is not the answer to address the proliferation of harmful drugs in the social landscape of the country. Before legalising the use of drugs that take the psyche into a state of trance and affects social behaviour, there has to be clear guidelines about the do’s and don’ts. A permissible amount of consumption should be decided and age of consent has to be ascertained.”