KOCHI:‘Atithi Devo Bhava.’ The words which describe the Indian tradition of treating guests as gods, served as the perfect campaign and tag line for the Tourism Ministry’s bid to attract more tourists to the country.However, it would seem a few foreign tourists took this in the wrong spirit. For the number of foreigners caught with narcotic substances reached an all-time high in 2017, according to the data released by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).
Recently, the number of South Americans caught with drugs also saw an increase forcing enforcement and intelligence agencies to closely monitor South American nationals arriving in India.The NCB data said as many as 397 foreigners carrying narcotic substances were arrested by various agencies from across the country. The figure was 219 in 2016, 221 in 2015 and 292 in 2014. Till February 28, 2018, as many as 27 foreigners were arrested for the same offence.
Citizens of Nigeria, Nepal, Myanmar, South Africa, Bolivia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Uganda Rwanda and Venezuela were nabbed across India for smuggling drugs.“A majority of the foreigners caught for drugs smuggling were from Nigeria and Nepal. Since the Nepal border is an active channel for drugs smuggling, every year, a large number of its citizens are arrested with drugs. Smugglers from Nigeria mostly concentrate supplying drugs to metro cities and Goa,” said an NCB officer.
Recently, South American drug cartels became active in smuggling as was seen when a number of South American smugglers were booked by agencies from across the country.In 2017, as many as 12 persons from various South American countries were arrested for smuggling drugs. They included those from Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia and Venezuela. There were around 20 cases in which drugs were sourced from South American nations and transported by carriers from the US, Philippines, Australia, Nigeria and South American countries.
“South American nationals were arrested for smuggling cocaine, which has recently been on the rise in India. In most such seizures, the cocaine was sourced from Brazil. Earlier, the demand for cocaine was low as Indian drug users could not afford it. However, over the year, their purchasing capacity has gone high which has led to a rise in cocaine demands,” said the officer.
In Kochi only, four cases of cocaine smuggling were reported in the past six months. In three of the cases, the carriers were from South American countries, namely Venezuela, Paraguay and El Salvador. In all the four cases, the cocaine was brought from Sao Paulo in Brazil.
“Travellers arriving from South American countries are being monitored following the rise in incidents of smuggling cocaine to India. However, the South American cartel also hire European and South Asian travellers to smuggle the contraband here,” said the officer.