By Raju Vernekar
Mumbai, Dec 27:
A Pakistani fishing boat ‘Al Soheli’ with 10 crew members carrying arms, ammunition and 40 kg of narcotics (Heroin) worth Rs 300 crore was intercepted off the Gujarat coast in the early hours of Monday, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) said.
Based on specific inputs shared by the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad, the Coast Guard deployed its fast patrol ship “ICGS Arinjay” for patrolling in the area close to the notional International Maritime Border Line (IMBL) on the intervening night of December 25 and 26, the ICG said in a release.
The Pakistani fishing boat ‘Al Soheli’ was observed moving suspiciously in Indian waters in the early hours of the day. On being challenged, the boat started evasive manoeuvring and did not stop even after firing warning shots. Eventually the ICGS ‘Arinjay’, intercepted and stopped her.
The contraband was seized, the boat was impounded and the crew was arrested. A search of the vessel revealed six pistols and 120 rounds of ammunition, and about 40kgs of narcotics worth nearly Rs 300 crore. The boat had set sail from near Karachi, Defence officials said. The crew were brought to the coastal town of Okha (Devbhumi, Dwarka) in Gujarat for further investigation.
This was the seventh joint operation by the ICG and Gujarat ATS in the last 18 months, and the first apprehension wherein arms and ammunition along with drugs were recovered. A total of 346 kg of heroin worth Rs 1,930 crore was seized and 44 Pakistani and seven Iranian crew were apprehended in the last 18 months, the ICG release read.
The porous Gujarat coastline has emerged an easy smuggling route for drug cartels from other countries. Small manufacturing units processing heroin are also mushrooming across Gujarat. The maximum quantity of drugs were seized with increasing frequency since 2021 in Gujarat. The largest consignment of nearly 2,988.21 kg heroin worth over Rs 21,000 crore was seized at Mundra Port in September 2021. It was shipped from the Bandar Abbas port in Iran.
The drug seizures in Gujarat this year
In February (a joint operation by NCB and the Indian Navy)-Drugs-750 kgs (529 kg of very high-quality hashish, 234 kg of finest quality of crystal methamphetamine and some quantity of heroin) valued at Rs 2,000 crore, seized from a ship near Porbabdar/Jamnagar coast.
In April (a joint operation by the Gujarat ATS and the DRI)-Drugs- 260 kgs of heroin worth Rs 1500 crore, seized at the Kandla Port. On July 12, (a joint operation the Punjab Police and the Gujarat ATS)-Drugs-75 kg of heroin worth Rs 375 crore seized from a container at the Mundra Port in Kutch district. In August (an operation led by the Mumbai Police)-Drugs- 513 kgs of mephedrone worth Rs 1,026 crore, seized from a manufacturing unit in Ankleshwar, September 14 (a joint operation by the Gujarat ATS and the ICG) Drugs-40 kg heroin worth Rs 200 crore, seized from a fishing boat near Jakhau harbour in Kutch district and six Pakistani crew arrested and in October (a joint operation by the Gujarat ATS and the ICG)- Drugs-50 kg heroin worth Rs 350 crore seized from a Pakistani boat near Jakhau harbour in Kutch district and six Pakistani nationals were arrested.
According to sources, while Punjab and Himachal Pradesh are leading in India’s epidemic of opioid users, Gujarat is now the third-worst state in terms of deaths due to drug overdose.