KOCHI: Ernakulam recorded the highest number of cases registered by the excise department under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act in 2021 in the state. With limited manpower and technical support, it would be a major challenge for the department to prevent increasing drug peddling and abuse in the district.
As per the data tabled in the assembly last week, the department registered 3,922 NDPS cases in 2021, of which 540 were in Ernakulam. It was followed by Thrissur with 447 cases, Kannur (383) and Idukki (372). The districts with fewer NDPS cases were Kasargod with just 77 cases, Kozhikode with 130 and Pathanamthitta with 182.
Ernakulam Excise Deputy Commissioner P V Elias said the number of NDPS cases is on the rise across the state, including in the Ernakulam district. Having the most populated city and cosmopolitan lifestyle, the drug flow and abuse are high in the district.
“It is a challenging task to detect cases in cities like Kochi and towns like Aluva or Tripunithura. Nobody knows who is living next door. Similarly, there are a lot many hotels and lodges operating in the district which are increasingly being used for drug peddling and abuse. It’s true that the number of NDPS cases has gone up in the district, but it also shows detection of such cases is high here,” he said.
According to police officials, the matter of major concern is the increasing use of synthetic drugs like MDMA, LSD and Meth in the district, especially Kochi. As per the excise seizure data, 3.1kg of MDMA, 17.72 grams of heroin and 7.5 litres of hashish oil were seized in 2021. “MDMA is trending among youth who were earlier abusing ganja. A gram of MDMA is sold in retail by peddlers for Rs 1,500 to Rs 2,000. As cities like Kochi have rich people who can afford drugs at these prices, the demand is higher here,” a police officer said.
Elias said synthetic drugs are arriving through courier service. “We have given a directive to courier service providers regarding the movement of drugs like LSD and MDMA through parcels. If they see any suspicious parcels, they should inform us. Of late, a large number of courier parcels with drugs have been intercepted. However, as thousands of parcels arrive in Kochi every day, checking each and every one of them is a herculean task for operators,” he said.
Unlike other states, excise is not part of police department in Kerala. It is not handled by the home minister. According to a senior excise officer, this has led to several technical issues during investigation and enforcement. Now, the excise receives the call data record (CDR) of an accused or a suspect only through the police department. Similarly, live tracking a moving suspect using his mobile phone activities is still not possible for the excise officials. The department’s staff strength does not come to even one-third of the police force,” the officer said.