Intelligence gathering from migrants a challenge for enforcement agencies

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Even as the excise and the police have ratcheted up the intensity of enforcement drive in the face of surging drug-related cases in the district, the collection of intelligence from among the migrant community continues to remain a major impediment.

With migrants doubling up both as carriers and users, especially ganja, information from the group is considered critical. “We had successfully cultivated a source in the community in Perumbavoor sometime ago. But a solitary source is far from adequate and makes him vulnerable to be exposed at some point bringing brutal retribution in its wake. It is ideal to have multiple sources and to keep them changing so that they don’t raise suspicion among the community,” said P.V. Aleyas, Deputy Excise Commissioner, Ernakulam.

The frequent relocation of those engaged in handling drugs pose another challenge to enforcement agencies. “While keeping track of new residents is relatively easier in rural areas, the same cannot be said within city limits as the handlers hop between rented buildings all too frequently, making it tough to track them down,” said Mr. Aleyas.

Notwithstanding the challenges to intelligence gathering, the excise department has strengthened considerably its intelligence apparatus. Apart from a special squad and a dedicated intelligence bureau, multiple shadow teams are now being deployed at the range office level.

The excise department, however, finds considerably handicapped owing to the lack of sufficient authority like the police.

For instance, they cannot call for Call Detail Records of suspects on their own but have to root it through the police, leading to considerable wastage of valuable time enabling suspects to give them a skip.

The long-standing demand to treat the agency on par with the police as an enforcement agency giving them sufficient powers has gone unheeded.

“Despite the limitations, excise department continues to log the biggest seizures, perhaps, across the country,” said Mr. Aleyas. With the ganja harvesting season under way, the department has enhanced the surveillance and enforcement drive centred around railway stations. Trains from Andhra Pradesh, known as the hub from which ganja is smuggled in large quantities, are especially being closely monitored. While movement of ganja has definitely soared, the seizure of the expensive synthetic drugs has also shown an upward trend.

Multiple seizures of synthetic drugs like MDMA were registered during the nearly fortnight-long special drive conducted by the police since January 24.

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