Chennai, known more for its multinational companies and engineering colleges, is turning into a den for drugs and cartels. In the 12-month period from January to December 2017, enforcement agencies have seized over 500 kg drugs across Tamil Nadu and most of these drugs were seized from the Chennai zone, according to statistics of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).

According to NCB data, cartels are smuggling in larger quantities of contraband and the NCB seized over 100kg of ephedrine last year across Tamil Nadu. The quantity of seizure of ephedrine in the state is six times higher than 2016. Besides ephedrine, the NCB also seized 115kg of heroin, 10kg of cocaine and 32 blots of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) from across the Chennai zone.

A senior NCB official, preferring anonymity, told The Sunday Guardian: “In Tamil Nadu, the confiscation of narcotic substances has comparatively increased in the past few years. Factors like a large coastline, better road connectivity to other states of the country and well connected air services to Southeast Asian countries, are making Chennai a hub of smugglers.”

However, the NCB has also seized from the Chennai zone other narcotic substances like ganja and marijuana. According to analysts, drug smuggling cartels are now focusing more on the sale of drugs like heroin, cocaine and cannabis, synthetic drugs like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and ephedrine; drug precursors such as ketamine and pseudoephedrine are also in demand.

Chennai, Coimbatore and Tirupur are key hubs in Tamil Nadu for the consumption and smuggling of narcotics, enforcement officials say. The main target buyers for drug smugglers are engineering students and IT professionals in these cities.

A. Praseeth, a senior NCB official, told The Sunday Guardian: “Smugglers have been using Tamil Nadu’s coastline to pass drugs like heroin, opium and ganja to Southeast Asian countries. Earlier, drug smuggling cartels used to source these drugs from two areas: across Afghanistan, and states like Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, where poppy is legally cultivated by farmers for medicinal purposes. Now, however, dealers have started sourcing locally-made drugs. The presence of units that manufacture drugs like ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and methamphetamine is a cause for concern.”

“Historically, the Tamil rebels in Tamil Nadu began smuggling heroin in the early 1980s. Since almost a decade, drug smuggling on this route had been comparatively less, but has increased once again. Sri Lanka is a hub for heroin trade to Southeast Asian countries and drug cartels have been routing consignments to these nations mostly via Tamil Nadu,” Praseeth added.

Another NCB officer said: “Enforcement agencies are working together to identify and break the drug smuggling network in the state. We have increased coastal monitoring to intercept drug consignments in the seas. We have also formed special teams across the state to track drug trafficking by road.”

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