The role of the ‘Dark Net’ has been a major concern of India’s drug law enforcement agencies with the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) itself admitting in a secret note that the medium is being used “increasingly” here by drug traffickers.
The note, shared with a high-level committee consisting of 31 Parliamentarians, reveals that the changing pattern in the illegal trade is safer, compared to previous mediums used by the drug traffickers.
“The drug traffickers are increasingly using the ‘Dark Net’ for trafficking in drugs. Dark Net medium offers complete anonymity because of the use of onion routing and use of crypto currency for payment,” says the note accessed by IANS.
The medium is also used for “Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption” — an encryption programme that provides cryptographic privacy and authentication for data communication. PGP is used for signing, encrypting, and decrypting texts, e-mails, files, directories, and whole disk partitions and to increase the security of e-mail communications.
The note further mentions that Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) expertise and capacity to deal with this medium “need to be augmented”.
‘Dark Net’ refers to the deep hidden internet platform that is used for narcotics sale, exchange of pornographic content and other illegal activities by using the secret alleys of the onion router (ToR) to stay away from the surveillance of law enforcement agencies.
Owing to its end-to-end encryption, ‘Dark Net’ is considered very tough to crack when it comes to investigating criminal activities being rendered over it. It is an overlay network within the internet that can only be accessed with specific software, configurations, or authorisation, and often uses a unique customised communication protocol.
In August last year, India discussed the misuse of the ‘Dark Net’ for drug trafficking during a webinar conference of BRICS nations.
In February last year, the NCB arrested a 21-year-old son of a retired army officer, Dipu Singh, the country’s first ‘Dark Net’ narcotics operative who allegedly shipped hundreds of psychotropic drug parcels to the US, the UK, Romania, Spain and some other European nations using the dark web in the garb of sex stimulation medicines.
Singh was arrested by the NCB which also recovered 12,000 tablets of various psychotropic drugs from his residence. A total of 55,000 psychotropic tablets that includes tramadol, zolpidem, alprazolam was also seized as part of this two-month-long operation that was conducted with cooperation from international agencies. Some other seizures in this case were made in Mumbai and the UK too.
During the operation, 135 kg of different psychotropic tablets were seized, and four persons were arrested.
Set up on March 17, 1986 as the apex agency to coordinate actions of various central and state agencies on the issue, NCB is India’s specialised anti-drug trafficking wing.
The MHA is also planning to “redesign” its “governance architecture” to deal with constant changing patterns of drug trafficking and its abuse and the need to develop skill of officers to respond to the challenges arising out of the same.
It said a training centre on Drug Law Enforcement was set up in December 2019, at the campus of the Central Academy of Police Training, Bhopal, and mandated to impart domain training to the officers of NCB and those of other Central and State Agencies involved in drug law enforcement.
For the purpose of coordination among all state and Central agencies in drug related issues, a narco coordination mechanism was set up by the MHA in 2016 under the chairmanship of the NCB chief. This mechanism provides a common platform for all drug related issues in India.
To provide for a more effective platform, the mechanism was revamped in July 2019 into a four-tier structure — (1) Apex Committee headed by Union Home Secretary (2) Executive Committee headed by Special Secretary, Internal Security (3) State level Committee headed by Chief Secretary, (4) District level Committee headed by Superintendent of Police of the district. The committees have onboard the representatives of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Department of Revenue and all Central and state drug law enforcement agencies.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at email@example.com)