Of a blunt, in a bong, for a high

"Sahil Kadiyan, 25, and Ridham Gulati, 22, were arrested on December 26, 2018. The were travelling in a Honda Jazz with a consignment of 11.670 kg of imported marijuana, 76 distillate cartridge of marijuana tetrahydrocannabinol (one of the 113 cannabinoids found in cannabis), 50 gm cannabis wax imported from the US, and 50 gm malana cream (hash)," said Rajiv Ranjan, Additional Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, adding that the police have also seized the four mobile phones with SIM cards the duo had on them.

It was this arrest which brought the modus operandi of the drug runners into sharp focus.

Police discovered how the dark web is used by peddlers to import drugs from foreign countries. The dark web uses the hard-to-detect software Tor and I2P making it safer to browse without detection. Even if investigating agencies penetrate the browser, tracing the location is impossible.

Darknet encryption technology routes users’ data through several intermediate servers, which protect the users’ identity and guarantees anonymity. The complicated system makes it almost impossible to reproduce the node path and decrypt the information layer by layer. Due to the high level of encryption, websites are not able to track geo-location and IP of their users, and users are not able to get the information about the host.

Officials also highlighted how money transfer was happening through bitcoin. "The police are familiar with only two ways of money transfer: when it is wired into an account or sent via the hawala. But these transactions use the bitcoin route making it difficult to track how, when, where and how much changes hands," said one of the officials who warned: "We foresee an increasing trend of using bitcoin. Its anonymity and difficult to track features make it potentially atractive to those looking for terror funding or arms runners too."

In June 2018, a bootlegger trio, who supplied liquor illicitly from Haryana to the dry state of Bihar, spilled the beans on their modus operandi when arrested from their car. Emboldened by their success at bootlegging, they became distributors of ganja in Delhi and adjoining areas. Small gangs earn Rs 500/kg of ganja smuggled in Delhi. A distributor used to arrange godowns for the consignment in outskirts of Delhi and Noida and further distributed it to various wholesalers in Delhi & NCR.

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime Branch, Bhisham Singh explained how it works: "Distributors procure ganja from contacts in Naxalite states for Rs 1,500/kg and often seel it for even as much as Rs 10,000/kg, depending on quality, to various wholesalers in Delhi, Gurugram, Samalkha, Ghaziabad, Meerut, and Noida. The revenue generated by the sale of ganja is utilised to purchase illicit liquor from godowns in Haryana and Punjab."

Certain godown owners, in on the game, accept ganja as payment for illicit liquor. This booze is then shipped to a dry Bihar in the same truck, where it is sold at a hefty margin. This multiplies the profits of the kingpin and saves him the hassles of moving money from Delhi to Bihar, an officer told this writer. "We are trying to crack open more such modules." Cracking the currency circuit

Another barter trend observed in the recent past is the inflow of fake currency in the country in lieu of Corex cough syrup. Since alcohol is banned in neighbouring Bangladesh, the cough syrup has become their intoxicant of choice for them. In India, Corex is sold on the basis of a prescription, however, people bypass the system and illegally send it to Bangladesh across the porous border. In return, the drug runners push in fake Indian currency via the Malda route. Like Corex, opium from India is also exchanged in Bangladesh for fake currency.

The officials also explained why opium and heroin were so popular in Punjab. "Since religion frowns on smoking, many find opium/heroin as alternatives," said an official, who added, "In some states, like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, opium cultivation is licensed. Rarely does one come across a dhaba (roadside eatery) on the highway, crisscrossing these states on to Punjab and Delhi, where opium/heroin is not available. Shockingly, many truckers consume these to stay alert while driving."

Ganja/marijuana/cannabis/grass/weed: It mainly comes from Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, and Bihar. It is most the popular drug among youths and adults due to its varied price range. Ranging from Rs 100 to 5,000, there is a fix to suit every pocket. Of course, you pay more for better quality. It is available at several prominent residential colonies but regulars admit the quality cannot match the drugs procured from Delhi.

Charas/hash/hashish: The drug mostly comes from Himachal Pradesh. Various parts in Himachal Pradesh have all varieties of hash available. The quality depends on the freshness, purity and if it is a first rub or not; it also has other varieties like malana cream, ice, and red ice, which is basically based on the purity of the drug. It’s sold for double the price in Delhi due to the risk involved in getting it all the way down to the national capital.

Until a decade ago, ganja was rare to come by. Since it could be easily detected because of the smell, not many used it openly. But that has changed and how! Now, people are not only smoking it brazenly outdoors, but terming it as the ‘best birthday gift’. This makes peer pressure to smoke up for the young and restless a real danger. Weed and charas are also seen as community drugs as they help people bond.