Punjab, the drug capital of the country?

Chandigarh In a new twist in the drugs smuggling case in Punjab, police sources say that Ram Singh, a national-level boxer who is Olympics medal winner Vijender Singh's friend, has told the police during questioning that he along with Vijender met Anup Singh Kahlon, an alleged arrested drug dealer, about five times since December last year and used to buy small quantities of drugs from him. Ram Singh has also told the police that both Vijender and he were not habitual users, the sources added.

The police is tight-lipped and have not given a clean chit to the ace boxer as yet. They say investigations are in a crucial phase.

"There are loose ends. We are investigating. We are working very hard... Once we conclude we will let you know," said HS Mann, Senior Superintendent of Police, Fatehgarh Sahib.

Hundreds of kilos of narco drugs have been seized in Punjab in the last two months. Among the three top drug kingpins who have emerged, two are already in custody. Raj Kandola, considered to be the king of synthetic drugs in India, was arrested last year. Anup Singh Kahlon, a Canadian resident, was arrested near Fathegarh Sahib in the state last week. The third kingpin, Jagdish Bhola, a former Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) who represented India internationally in wrestling and is also an Arjuna awardee, is absconding.

Both Raj Kandola and Anup Singh Kahlon used to stay in Canada and were connected to the international drug cartel. Police believes Jagdish Bhola was also in touch with international smugglers.

Raj Kandola is currently lodged in Tihar Jail in New Delhi. He was arrested last year but escaped from custody and was later rearrested. He was operating a party-drug manufacturing operation in Punjab and invested in real estate.

Originally from a village in Nawashahr near Jalandhar, Raj Kandola had moved to Canada a few years ago. On coming back, he became active in smuggling and manufacturing of rave or party drugs. Police started tracking him after a drug manufacturing unit was busted near Jalandhar and seized about 50 kilograms of Ephedrine and Methametaphine last June. The two substances are mixed to produce ICE - a party drug that's popular among the youth. He was also known as the king of synthetic drugs. Raj Kandola would produce the drugs here in India and would also export some of them.

On visiting his farmhouse near Ludhiana, his gatekeeper said that many VIPs used to visit the farmhouse.

"Big officers used to come here...that I know...they use to say knock before you come in," said Sohan Lal, the gate keeper.

The luxurious farmhouse, spread over 18 acres, is a testimony of the astronomical rise of Raj Kandola. He bought the farmhouse just two years ago, and reportedly used to manufacture synthetic drugs here. He also, reportedly, used to entertain his high profile guests here.

After the recovery of crores of rupees from Kandola, even the Enforcement Directorate questioned him and raided his houses. His worth is estimated to be around Rs 200 crores.

Next in the list of kingpins is Jagdish Bhola. Once an ace wrestler, he got selected in police on a sports quota and was with the Punjab Police as a DSP till 2001. A year later, he was first arrested for drug peddling. He was arrested again by the Maharashtra Police for smuggling drugs but managed to escape. Till recently, he was staying in Mohali, but is missing since the arrest of Anup Kahlon. Police says both of them were working together and that their modules were connected. Police says Jagdish Bhola's house has all kinds of surveillance gadgets around the compound and at least five CCTV cameras were installed around the house to monitor any danger or police raid.

The Punjab Police believes he can provide them with important information about other modules active in the state.

"The main culprit is Jagdish Bhola. He is the one who supplied Heroin to them and they used to further give the consignment to Delhi, and then it used to be smuggled. Till the time we don't arrest Jagdish Bhola, the back link is difficult to establish," said M Farooqui, Deputy Inspector General, Ludhiana Range.

Police says Anup Singh Kahlon was a good athlete and a Canadian resident. For the last few years he was in India to spread his ring of drug smuggling and was quite successful. He had a huge network of drug peddlers who used to get drug consignments and send it to Delhi and Canada. According to police, he may have sent at least a dozen drug consignments to Canada.

Earlier, drugs used to be smuggled in Punjab from Pakistan and sent to Delhi and Mumbai. Through these cities, a large portion of them were exported since international rates are almost 100 times more than the prices in local markets. What is alarming now is that large quantities of drugs are being consumed locally. A recent survey in Punjab concluded that at least 50 per cent of youngsters in Punjab and areas around its border were addicted to some sort of drugs or alcohol. With the recent drug hauls, it seems to police needs to redefine its priorities.
Story First Published: March 09, 2013 22:07 IST

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