mid-day editorial: Ensure Thane drug case is airtight

The seizure of nearly 20,000 kilograms of ephedrine worth Rs 2,000 crore in Thane is the second big haul in the last 12 months, after the multi-city haul of mephedrone in March 2015, which threatened to tarnish even the higher echelons of the Mumbai police after the arrest of a Marine Drive constable. Ephedrine, manufacturing which is not illegal but selling is, is used as a medicine to treat breathing ailments. The police say the drug is illegally used in India to produce the popular party drugs mephedrone (meow-meow) and methamphetamine.

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that Mumbai is in the firm grip of the dual menace of mephedrone and meth. With drugs being cheap and easily available, many youngsters fall for it. Saturday’s seizure shows how big the market could be, with police saying this is only the tip of the iceberg.

While the state recently moved to include both meth and mephedrone in the stringent Schedule II of the NDPS Act, the current seizure of ephedrine only shows how big a battle is left in front of them. For starters, the firm, from whose premises the drug was seized, is a listed company and claims to be an USFDA authorized manufacturer of ephedrine. So, the manufacture and storage of the drug itself is not illegal, as even the police admit. The police claim the manufacturer did not have the right papers.

Experts said such technicalities mean that the manufacturer could get away if the police case is not airtight. This puts this case in the same realm as last year’s, where the seized drug ‘turned out’ to be talcum powder. Thus, if they are serious about fighting the drug issue, authorities need to look at ways of classifying drugs without any gray areas. This will help them increase conviction rate to make those peddling it think twice before they sign up for it. On the other hand, they must work with grassroots activists to spread more awareness about drug abuse. The battle against the drug mafia is a long one. While the police seem to have started on the right foot, even tiny missteps can derail it.

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