Chandigarh, With Punjab Police busting a major narco-terror racket, allegedly linked to one of India’s biggest drug smuggling kingpins and also having suspected involvement of an official appointed by the previous Akali regime, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Friday asserted that he would not spare anyone found implicated in the case, irrespective of their political affiliations.
He said that his government would not allow drug smugglers, narco gangsters and narco-terrorists to spread their wings in the state, which had witnessed massive decline in the number of deaths due to drug abuse, as a result of the efforts of the government and the police.
The deaths come down from 114 in 2018 to 47 in 2019, he said at a press conference here, adding that his government would not give up the fight against drugs till the problem is rooted out completely.
Giving details of Thursday night’s arrests and seizures, the Chief Minister said the house in Sultanwind village in the Amritsar border region from which the police seized nearly 195 kg of heroin along with chemicals , allegedly belonged to Anwar Masih, who was a member of the Subordinate Services Board (SSB), an appointee of the previous SAD-BJP government.
Investigations were in progress to ascertain involvement of Masih, who claims to haveA rented out the house to the accused arrested last night by the Special Task Force, Border Range, said Amarinder Singh.
However, Masih has so far failed to produce any written rent agreement and the people of the area were also unaware of any tenants living there, he said.
Preliminary investigations had revealed that the accused had been using the premises for the past one month.
Congratulating the police on the seizure and arrests, Amarinder Singh said initial investigations suggested that the drug network was linked with Simranjit Singh Sandhu, one of the biggest drug mafia of the country, who has recently been detained in Italy.
He said that his government would seek extradition of Sandhu, who holds an Australian passport and was detained in Italy on an Interpol notice from the Gujarat authorities.
The seizure, said the Chief Minister, appeared to be a part of the consignment of 300 kgs of drugs that arrived in Mandavi in Gujarat last year, and of which 200 kg was smuggled into Punjab.
The consignment had been traced to Sandhu, while efforts were also on to trace the other big fish involved in the case.
Giving further details, the Chief Minister said six persons, including an Afghan national identified as Armaan Basharmal, have so far been arrested, with 194.15 kg of heroin and several kgs of chemicals seized from their possession.
A lot of equipment used for refining of heroin and mixing it with other products has also been seized from Armaan, who had come to Punjab a week ago.
Interrogation of Sandhu and further investigations in the case would lead to others involved in the case and would also reveal whether the drugs were meant for Punjab or for distribution outside the state, said the Chief Minister, in reply to a question.
In response to questions about his government’s success in combating the drug problem, the Chief Minister said the efforts of the STF had led to a major crackdown, with 35,500 cases registered under the NDPS Act between March 2017 and January 2020 (before the present case).
In this period, 44,500 smugglers or peddlers have been arrested and 11,000 are currently in prison, he said, adding that these efforts had led to a dramatic increase in the seizure of heroin (1,100 kg from March 2017 to January 2020, in addition to 194.15 kg seized last night).
As part of the incentives programme, panchayats that report 100 per cent drug free villages will be given special grants, he said.
As far as rehabilitation was concerned, the Buddy and DAPO programmes were working well and so far around 3.5 lakh drug victims had visited the rehabilitation, OOAT and de-addiction centres.
Admitting that use of drones in recent months to smuggle weapons and drugs into Punjab was a matter of serious concern for the state, the Chief Minister said his government had sought anti-drone devices from the Centre to tackle the problem.
Unfortunately, he said, Punjab, along with Delhi, had over the years emerged as a lucrative market for drugs, encouraging smugglers from other states and narco terrorists from Pakistan to push narcotics into the state.
His government was working closely with other northern states, sharing regular information, to combat the problem, said Amarinder Singh.
With the DGPs of these states meeting every month, there was significant progress in cracking down on the drug smugglers, he said, pointing out that the Chief Ministers had also agreed to meet every six months.