Chandigarh, Jan 10 (IANS) Punjab Police on Friday seized two highly sophisticated Chinese-made drones and arrested a serving and two smugglers belonging to a narco-terror module involved in smuggling of weapons and narcotics across the India-Pakistan border.
The seizures, resulting from targeted and intelligence-led search operations, also included drone batteries, custom-made drone containers, two walkie-talkie sets, Rs 6.22 lakh in cash, believed to be proceeds of drugs, and the magazine of an INSAS rifle, it said.
The drones, capable of travelling two-three kms on either side of the border, were reportedly being launched from the Indian side to fly into Pakistan to pick up payloads of narcotics. The gang had apparently already conducted four-five sorties, Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta told the media here.
Gupta, accompanied by Additional DGP R.N. Dhoke, Inspector General, Border Range, S.P.S. Parmar and Senior Superintendent of Police Dhruv Dhaiya, said this was the first instance to show that drones were being used to smuggle narcotics, even though no drugs had been recovered yet.
He said the module members had revealed that they were involved in cross-border smuggling of drugs and weapons over drones over the past few months.
Certain Pakistan-based drug smugglers, who were sending the drugs and weapons from across the border in Pakistan, had also come to notice, he said.
Three people — Dharminder Singh, Rahul Chauhan and Balkar Singh — were arrested.
While Dharminder Singh was arrested from Hardo Rattan village, about 3 km from the India-Pakistan border, Balkar Singh had been lodged in Amritsar Jail in a NDPS case and was brought on production warrant.
Chauhan, an army man, was reportedly involved in procuring and supplying drones and training to cross-border smugglers.
Two members of the narco-terror module were still absconding and efforts were on to nab them, said the DGP, adding that further investigations were underway to ascertain details about the accused ties with terrorist outfits, radicals, drug smugglers and other anti-national elements.
Preliminary investigations had confirmed that Chauhan was directly involved in operating drone sorties across the border for picking up heroin as well as weapons from Pakistan, along with his associates in India and Pakistan.
He and his accomplices were in direct contact with Pakistani smugglers on encrypted OTT platforms, said the DGP, adding the plan was to send one of the walkie talkie sets across the border to Pakistan to facilitate two-way communications.
The first drone, a Chinese made DJI INSPIRE 2 drone (Quadcopter), was recovered from an abandoned government dispensary building in Modhe village in Amritsar (rural) where it had been hidden by Dharminder Singh and his associated drug smugglers.
The second drone, a Chinese made DJI MATRICE 600 PRO (Hexacopter), was recovered from a house in Karan Vihar in Karnal in Haryana on the disclosures of Chauhan. The house belongs to his friend.
Chauhan has further revealed that he bought a black coloured, partially damaged Drone- Aspire 02 model, during the second half of 2019 from OLX for about Rs 1.50 lakh.
After repairing the drone, he sold it on OLX for about Rs 2.75 lakh. From these sale proceeds, Chauhan purchased a new Drone DJI Inspire 02 model for about Rs 3.2 lakh from Pune and sold it to a criminal in Amritsar for Rs 5.7 lakh.
In response to a question, Gupta said technologies to immobilise drone were available and efforts were on to develop them indigenously in the country too.
He ruled out any Border Security Force connivance in the use of these drones and said the paramilitary force was working closely with the Punjab Police to identify and check drone activity along the border.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had expressed concern over the recent drone activity along the border, which first came to light in August 2019 post abolition of Article 370, and had raised the issue with the Central government, seeking close monitoring by central agencies and forces.