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Thursday, 2 December 1999

Reaching Heavens through Selling Drugs

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)


One metre from the Pakistan border, the reason behind an
apparent low morale in the men of the Indian border patrols
becomes evident. Opposite Manihari, in the Samba sector of
Jammu, the Pakistan authorities have deliberately allowed the
land to become jungle. The vegetation acts as a perfect cover for
those infiltrating into India.

Had the Indian government cleared the jungle on its side of
the border, a zone of clear land would have been created to
facilitate detection of intruders. Instead, the land on the Indian
side has also been left as jungle. To make interception of
infiltrators even more difficult, the roads on the Indian side of
the border are mere country tracks, which discourage regular
patrolling. Here, on the dirt tracks and in the bush, the advantage
lies clearly with the intruder, who usually enters on foot.
Shakargarh is one of the commonest points of entry into
India, used by both drug runners and terrorists. However, there
are only around 70 BSF men to cover over three kilometres of
border. Cuts   financial outlays have resulted in a lower
intensity of patrolling, while the "reward system" for informers
has got bureaucratised, with over a year often elapsing before a
reward is given for information about infiltrators. That is, in
those cases where a reward gets sanctioned at all.
In yet another display of helpfulness to the intruder, each
border post has been positioned around 500 yards from the
boundary. From that distance, looking into the dense jungle all
around, it would take a hawk to detect anything. Unfortunately,
the posts are manned by human beings. Travelling on the dirt
track along the border, it was clear that the authorities believed
Pakistan to be a friendly country. Patrols were rare, and checking 
infrequent.

In a village a few kilometres from the international border, 
a "businessman" from Sialkot agreed to talk, provided the name
of the village was not disclosed. To prove his credentials, an
identity card was pulled out, which had his name and photograph,
along with the Pakistan emblem in the upper right-hand corner. 
According to Fazil, a drug-runner, these cards are given on the
Pakistan side to facilitate re-entry into that country. He said that, 
for the past year, officials in civilian clothes - rather than Rangers -
gave instructions for those making the crossings. "People in
uniform now give orders only to the mujahids (terrorists)," he
said. And what was the link between the "businessmen" and the
mujahids? After hesitating, Fazil, said that the Pakistan authorities
allowed the drug-runners to exit freely "on condition that we
pay money to the mujahids for them to buy stores and
ammunition". Also, he added, "our entry and exit networks in
India are to be at the disposal of the mujahids". When asked how
dangerous it was to cross over to India, the reply was, "This is
a wonderful country. We can buy 90 minutes or 120 minutes of
time from the Indian border authorities to send in men and
ammunition. Once, in 1993, we even got six hours of time to
bring in material".

Talking to P. S. Bajwa, who commands the BSF posts in the
Samba sector, the reason why Fazil took the risks he did becomes
clear. According to the BSF officer, a kilogram of heroin doubles V
in value from the Rs 25,000 paid in Pakistan, the moment it
crosses to the Indian side. In Delhi, the same quantity of drugs
would fetch Rs 2,00,000, a figure that would more than double
once it reached Bombay. The real profits, however, were to be
made from exporting the drug to the US. In New York, heroin
worth Rs 25,000 in Pakistan could be sold for over Rs 1 crore.
According to Paramjit Randhawa, a BSF officer dealing with
border intelligence, North-west Pakistan and Afghanistan were
the main producers of drugs. Subsequently, drug-runners send
the substances to Karachi and Bombay for onward transmission
to Europe and the US. According to him, Bombay was the main
shipment point for the Indian drug trade, "which is closely
linked to Dubai and Karachi."

Near Samba, in the residence of a villager, Yakub - a Lahore
based "facilitator" in the drug distribution network - agreed to
talk again if his contacts remained anonymous. When asked why
he was active in such a trade, Yakub replied that drugs were a
"weapon to destroy the societies of unbelievers". He added that
"spreading poison in such societies is no sin. Instead, it confers
blessings". Yakub too affirmed that money was regularly given
by drug traders to militants in Kashmir. This was done "as a
duty to our brethren".

Despite the handicaps imposed by lack of manpower and the
absence of fencing or other methods of making the border less
porous, Indian patrols have succeeded in intercepting large
quantities of drugs. Commander Bajwa’s 117 Battalion captured
215 kilograms of heroin and 600 kilograms of charas during the
past three months alone. However, these represent a small
fraction of the drugs getting through. Why? A senior BSF officer
in Jammu had an answer: "Smugglers are not deterred, because r
our laws are much more liberal than in South-east Asia. Here
most carriers spend less than a year in jail. What we need is
better enforcement and tougher punishment".



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