Kochi: The state excise department is seemingly helpless in checking the rising cases of drug-consumption and peddling among the youths using Darknet as it lacks modern technical tools to trace and identify these new-generation businesses. The department depends largely on police cyber experts in serious cases as a proposal for the formation of an advanced cyber cell has not yet been sanctioned.
The department is also learnt to be planning to develop a crime branch as there is a growth in drug-related crimes. Sources with the excise said that lack of a cyber cell and a special branch to investigate drug-related crimes is creating hurdles in executing operations in anticipation. "We have to depend on the police even for tracking the tower location or collecting call details as part of the investigation. It delays the investigation as the police are busy with the cases of their own," a source with the excise said.
Though the excise tops in the number of catches and detection of drug-related cases, the investigation does not go deep due to lack of technical expertise. The excise has found WhatsApp groups dealing with drugs, including chemical drugs, but due to lack of cyber experts in the department, tracking the members of the group and dealings has become difficult.
Sources said that they have identified a WhatsApp group named 'Shivamooli,' which is the name of a type of cannabis plant, functioning with more than 200 members. "But with lack of technology, we were not able to trace them," sources said.
Similar setbacks were faced by the department during the investigation into one of the biggest seizures of MDMA from Ernakulam last year. "International calls were received by the accused from countries like Malaysia and Bangladesh. The department has to depend on the technical experts from police or other agencies to trace and make headway in the case. But it causes huge delay," a source said. The search to locate Ali, one of the prime accused in the case, has reached nowhere because of this.
Former excise deputy commissioner of Ernakulam, A.S. Ranith, told DC that requests had been given to set up crime- related special branches and cyber cells. "When the canvas of the enforcement work expands in different cases, similar expansion should happen in the expertise and scientific intelligence of the department," he said.
Meanwhile, Ernakulam district saw a sharp rise in the number of NDPS seizures and cases compared to previous years. A total of 206 cases were registered in the last three months in the district, including 382 nitrazepam tablets, 18 grams of MDMA, 162.6 grams of hashish oil, 16 kg ganja, 2.73 g heroin and two morphine ampoules....