A boy just 12 years old was offering opium and hashish. He earned hundreds of dollars a month dealing drugs and playing cards. Good-quality heroin for $45 a gram.
Punjab, India’s only Sikh-majority state, prospered from the nation’s “green revolution” and the introduction of high-yield crops in the 1970s. But it failed to build on that boom to attract industrial investment. In the past two decades, population growth has caused landholdings to shrink and economic growth has stagnated.
Ravinder Singh Sandhu, a sociologist at GNDU
Drug use has long been a problem in India’s remote and insurgency-plagued northeast, as well as in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai. But the spread of drugs in Punjab is a recent development.
For years, landowners gave raw opium to migrant farm laborers to encourage them to work harder.
But it was the rise over the past two decades of the Golden Crescent region — which became the world’s main poppy-growing and heroin-producing center and encompasses Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran — that turned Punjab into a major transit route for the drug. Afghan heroin was smuggled into Pakistan, transported to the port in Mumbai and shipped to the West. But some of the heroin was cut to a lower quality and sold here cheaply.
In the late 1980s, India began erecting a fence along its border with Pakistan that is now so brightly lit that it is clearly visible from space. But smugglers slip across at points where the fence is weak or interrupted by rivers, said H.S. Dhillon, director of intelligence for the Punjab police. Often, packets of heroin are simply hurled across the fence, often tied to bundles of counterfeit Indian currency, and sometimes weapons and explosives.
In October, more than 230 pounds of heroin were found packed in cement bags on a train arriving from Pakistan.
Afghan heroin smuggled + Indian manufactured opioids and sedatives sold over the counter without presciptions.
Increasingly, they said, drugs are being injected rather than ingested or smoked, leading to a surge in HIV/AIDS infections. The bulk of the injectable pharmaceuticals are being produced illicitly in India.
In 2009, Saji Mohan, a former police narcotics chief from the state capital, Chandigarh, was arrested in Mumbai and charged with selling drugs
Heroin use was so open in prison that he had started his habit there