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Maharashtra: Factories, bungalows, flats, slums...there’s an MD lab everywhere

Updated on: 10 April,2024 06:55 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Faisal Tandel , Diwakar Sharma |

As mephedrone started gaining in popularity, drug lords started setting up manufacturing units in abandoned MIDC factories; now the demand has gone up so much, production has entered city limits

Maharashtra: Factories, bungalows, flats, slums...there’s an MD lab everywhere

The police officers of the Mumbai Crime Branch after raiding a Sangli-based factory

Key Highlights

  1. Production of MD has expanded to Thane, Palghar, Pune, Sangli and other districts
  2. Narcotics are also being produced at clandestine locations such as bungalows, row houses
  3. In 2016, the Thane police recovered 18,627 kg of ephedrine worth Rs 2,000 crore

After a crackdown on a mephedrone (MD) racket in a Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC) area in Solapur, where abandoned factories provided ample cover for shady activities, production of the narcotic has expanded to Thane, Palghar, Pune, Sangli and other districts where deserted units are being used to crank out drugs. 

Narcotics are also being produced at clandestine locations such as bungalows, row houses and even regular houses in Mumbai neighbourhoods, making it harder for authorities to disrupt the supply chain.

In 2016, the Thane police conducted its first raid at a Solapur MIDC area and recovered 18,627 kg of ephedrine worth Rs 2,000 crore. “If we add some chemical to ephedrine, high-quality MD can be prepared,” said a police officer. Major figures like Vicky Goswami, Kailash Rajput and Kishore Rathod were booked in the case, leading to the use of MIDC factories for making drugs,” the office said.

The Thane Crime Branch uncovered a factory nestled within a farmhouse in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh last monthThe Thane Crime Branch uncovered a factory nestled within a farmhouse in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh last month

“In 2014, there was an increase in the use of MD and we found that it was exclusively used in Mumbra and other parts. The drug was banned in foreign countries but was made easily available in the market. Youngsters were curious about trying something new. Seeing this, we sought to include the drug in the NDPS [Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances] Act. In February 2015, it came under its purview,” said Parag Manare, the then-deputy commissioner of police, Thane Crime Branch.

February seizure

Two months ago, the authorities seized 1,800 kg of MD in crackdowns carried out in Pune, Sangli and Delhi after raiding a pharmaceutical plant and godown in Pune. The cops learnt that the drugs had come from a factory at Kurkumbh MIDC. Around five arrests have been made and the involvement of foreign nationals is being investigated. “We had received a tip-off and the investigation led us to the Pune manufacturing unit, where we seized around 1,100 kg of MD. The people arrested are just small players. We are yet to nab the kingpins or manufacturers. Small chemical factories have been set up with the help of so-called experts in the field. The MIDC, Food and Drug Administration and excise department should also ensure drugs don’t reach the market and syndicates are busted before they’re established,” said Pune Commissioner of Police Amitesh Kumar.

Sangli operation

The Mumbai Crime Branch’s Unit 7 last month raided a factory in Sangli and seized around 126 kg of MD worth R252 crore as well as 25 gm of gold and a car. In all, around 10 people, including a woman, were arrested. Raids were then conducted in Mira Road and Surat to choke the supply chain. “During the investigation, we learnt that Pravin Shinde, 37, a high school dropout and a resident of Sangli, had been producing MD for the past four years and was working in the Sangli-based factory for the past seven months where he was overseeing production and sales. Around R3.46 crore in cash was seized from his Bhiwandi residence. He confessed that the cash was earned from the sale of drugs and we suspect he bought his house with his ill-gotten wealth,” said Datta Nalawade, deputy commissioner of police, Mumbai Crime Branch. 

In October 2023, the Mumbai Crime Branch cracked down on an MD racket operating from an abandoned factory in Solapur’s Chincholi MIDCIn October 2023, the Mumbai Crime Branch cracked down on an MD racket operating from an abandoned factory in Solapur’s Chincholi MIDC

Shinde told the police that he had learned to manufacture MD in Varanasi. “After this, he went to Sangli to start the factory. He was all responsible for supplying it to Mumbai and other parts of the state,” said a police officer.

According to the officials from anti-drug agencies, as news of the raid spread, other factories operating in the region vanished overnight and their set-ups popped up in the remote districts of the state.

Factory units

After scrutinising past MD cases, the police found that only a few individuals were arrested, and the larger supply chain remained undisclosed. The police decided to change their approach by aiming to arrest more suspects to build cases involving commercial quantities of the drug.

In this matter, the police were able to gather leads that eventually pointed towards the existence of manufacturing facilities, which often operate in MIDC areas.

It was found that fake documents and leases are used to ensure that production is not impeded. The actual owners of some of these factories, which are abandoned, were often unaware of the illegal activities occurring on their premises.

Overall, the authorities’ strategy involves a combination of proactive policing, strategic planning and collaborative efforts across law enforcement agencies to disrupt the supply chain of illegal narcotics.

2023 raid

In October 2023, the Mumbai Crime Branch raided the Chincholi MIDC in Solapur and found that the factory had been abandoned for many years. “The factory was rented out to the accused who had fake documents. The suspects had told the owner they planned to run a chemical unit. When the police interrogated the owner, he said the factory was not in use. The accused were paying him handsomely and he decided to let them use the facility without actually seeing what is going on inside it,” said an officer, stating that a similar factory was later busted by the Solapur police at the Mohar Chandramoli MIDC.

Daya Nayak, senior police inspector, Mumbai Crime Branch said, “Initially we caught a supplier with 4 kg of MD in Mumbai. We then raided the factory in Solapur where it was manufactured.”

Hidden in plain sight

MD production also occurs in the densely populated residential areas of south Mumbai, even in proximity to law enforcers such as the Dongri police.

In January 2021, the NCB busted a syndicate of drug manufacturers, Parvez Khan alias Chinku Pathan and Arif Bhujwala, who were involved in setting up MD manufacturing facilities in their respective south Mumbai residences. Pathan’s factory had cavities and other storage areas.

Bhujwala’s residence, in Noor Manzil, was just 700 metres away from the Dongri police station.

In January 2024, the Malwani police busted a home-based drug manufacturing lab in Kandivli West, operated by a BHMS dropout, Noor Alam Mohammad Alam Chaudhary, 24. The police seized drugs, raw material and equipment worth R1.17 crore. 

Farmhouses and hamlets

In December 2023, the anti-narcotic cell of Navi Mumbai Crime Branch busted a factory that was run from a farmhouse in Khopoli. The team arrested six and seized MD worth R5.39 crore along with raw materials worth R45,000. The police also seized 33 litres of chemicals and 25 kg of powder from the accused.

The Thane Crime Branch’s Unit 1, in March, uncovered a clandestine MD factory nestled within a farmhouse in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The investigation commenced with the arrest of an individual found in possession of 15 gm of MD in Thane. The Crime Branch eventually apprehended six suspects associated with the illegal operation and seized MD valued at Rs 27.78 crore, along with raw materials worth approximately Rs 8.62 lakh.

Drug manufacturing units have also sprung up in villages. Recently, Crime Branch sleuths of Mira Bhayandar Vasai Virar (MBVV) police had busted a huge factory which was set-up at a remote village in Mokhada taluka of Palghar district. The mastermind, Sameer Pinjar, 45, drew inspiration from a web-series. Sources said he had been sourcing key chemicals from China via courier.

“The production of MD emits a distinct odour, prompting drug traffickers to approach owners of operational chemical factories. They entice them to lease the space for short durations to mitigate suspicion, ensuring that any emanating odours during the production of MD don’t raise alarm among locals,” said a 
police officer.

The law enforcers had been visiting the operational chemical factories to get its employees’ strength, their nature of work, the number of shifts, what kind of chemicals are used in the factory, etc. “But the officers got engaged in election duty and we had to leave it midway. Once the elections are over, we will complete the work,” the officer added.

The polling duty of police apparently gave a lifeline for traffickers to produce more MD. Many believe that the drug menace is likely to intensify in Maharashtra, but the state’s top polling officer Shrikant Deshpande recently said in Kolhapur that Central and state agencies will keep a strict vigil to contain the threat.


Satish Malu, president of Krishna Valley Chamber of Industries and Commerce, Kupwad MIDC, Sangli, said, “Dr Raja Dayanidhi, the collector of Sangli district, has organised a meeting with the members of the association. He warned owners that before renting factories or industries, whether they are vacant or in use, documents should be verified and procedures involving the police followed. He explained how people working with us sometimes for a few extra bucks do illegal things and get us into trouble. We should always be aware of such people and take proper action or inform the police about them.”

An NCB officer said, “Raids are not the only option to curb the menace. Awareness in rural areas, especially near factory and industrial areas, is a must. Many villagers are not even aware of mephedrone and other drugs.”

Rs 252 cr
Value of MD seized from Sangli factory last month

Rs 2,000 cr
Value of ephedrine seized in 2016 raid


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