Chandigarh: Punjab seems to be set on its way to turn into India's largest drug-trading hub.
Long associated with rolling green fields and a hearty, jovial population, the state is now labouring under the huge problem of drugs transiting through it.
Just a fortnight ago, a man had been shot dead on the Indo-Pak border near Amritsar. The infiltrator had been carrying 14 Kg of heroin proving that not even the 469 Km long electrified fence on the Punjab border was a deterrent for drug-smuggling.
"For Punjab this is the biggest problem. It has turned into a drug hub. Old smugglers have taken to trading in drugs that make their way from Afghanistan to Pakistan and then to Delhi," says Zonal Director, Narcotics Control Bureau (Chandigarh), Dr Saji Mohan
Police have seized 130 Kg of heroin since January 2007 - more than four times the total amount seized last year. 100 kg of charas, 32 kg of smack, 62000 kg of poppy husk and 343 kg of opium have also been seizes and are the largest recoveries ever made in the country.
Narcotics control officials say that the actual volume of trade is even larger. The drug trade is estimated to be worth around 5000 crores in Punjab alone.
A bumper opium crop in Afghanistan this season could lead to even more drugs being pushed through. Border officials say Pakistan knows about the problem.
The route is simple: Drugs come into Punjab from Afghanistan or Pakistan, get routed to Delhi and from there, they make their way to North America and Europe.
On the border, security is tight with regular foot patrols, telescope scans. Nevertheless, the drugs, somehow, make it across the border, either hidden inside cavities in furniture, or inside vehicles. Smugglers in Pakistan often use Indian SIM cards to communicate, taking advantage of overlapping mobile signals.
DIG, Border Range, BSF, R K Vishwakarma says, "We have protested to the Pakistan Rangers and will also hold a flag meeting so that action should be taken by the Rangers against Pakistani smugglers too."
Police sources paint a frightening picture: criminals make lateral movements from smuggling to drugs to Hawala to terrorism and that is why they fear for the future.
With inputs from Avneet Teja and Gourav manik