portrait of the politician as a corrupt figurehead is a familiar one to
all Indians. But seldom has there been proof against our lawmakers. Seldom
have they been caught redhanded. Ashish Khetan rips the
opium trail and unearths documentary evidence that indicts several ministers,
MPs and MLAs from Uttar Pradesh, who have recommended the release of top
drug lords. An in-depth report into the cosy network that binds the neta
and the drug runner, one that does not distinguish the Samajwadi Party from
the BJP and the BSP
The drug trafficking
industry is the most well organised industry in the world. There perhaps
is no city, town or village — no matter how small or how remote —
where drugs are not available. The super efficient network supplies millions
of addicts their daily dose of death, 24/7. Such efficiency is not possible
without intervention from the corridors of power, without strong political
backing. And in India, nowhere is this backing from the politicians as blatant
as in Uttar Pradesh. Not coincidentally, up is the country’s heroin
hub. And in its badlands, the lawmakers’ clout goes a long way in
ensuring that the drug lords are able to go on with their business unhindered
by the lawkeepers.
Verma, Cabinet minister for prisons, UP
Tehelka: You recommended the withdrawal of cases against
drug lords Abdul Malik and Mohd Rafeeq.
Verma: Recommended to whom?
Tehelka: To the government for the withdrawal of
Verma: For the withdrawal of the case! No, I didn’t
Tehelka: But we have the letter.
Verma: Somebody must have forged the letter. I
never did that.
Tehelka: The Principal Secretary (Law) has acknowledged
that a few prominent politicians have recommended their release.
Verma: But I have not written the letter.
Tehelka has dug up over a dozen letters written over the years by prominent
politicians — from different parties — addressed to successive
Uttar Pradesh chief ministers. The letters recommend lifting of Narcotic
Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (ndps) cases slapped against drug
mafia kingpins. The letters prove that the narcotics industry in up has
grown into a well-entrenched, ever-flourishing multi-billion dollar industry
(see box) with politicians, the drug mafia and the state police as its biggest
Some of the people in whose support these ‘recommendation letters’
have been drafted are still in jail, such as Abdul Malik and Mohd Rafeeq.
They were arrested by the Zaidpur (Barabanki) police on August 11, 2003,
with 4 kg of morphine — worth Rs 4 crore in the international market.
Soon after their arrest, many heavyweight politicians wrote to Chief Minister
Mulayam Singh Yadav and recommended the withdrawal of cases against Malik
and Rafeeq. The politicians included cabinet minister for prisons Rakesh
Verma (son of former Telecommunications minister in IK Gujral government
Beni Prasad Verma,), minister of state for pwd Arvind Singh Gop, former
sp mp Ram Sagar Ravat and the sitting sp mla from Barabanki, Chote Lala
The ministers pleaded in their letters that the detainees are social workers
and loyal Samajwadi Party activists and police has falsely implicated them.
The police, however, say that the two are notorious drug smugglers. The
Zaidpur police station officer SC Rai also says that a Samajwadi Party bigwig
called just an hour after the arrest and asked him to release Malik and
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