MDMA (methylenedioxy methamphetamine), the synthetic drug known by street names such as ‘X’ and ‘ecstasy’, resembles coarse flour or raw sugar with a hint of colour.
The rock crystals can be powdered and easily sewn into a double-layered cotton face mask.
A person carrying half a gram of ecstasy can be remanded, but in these days of physical distancing, such ingenious means of concealment are bound to hamper the Excise Department’s attempts to apprehend carriers.
With the relaxation of travel restrictions as part of the current lockdown, the department is anticipating a surge in drug supply, but officials admit to limitations in conducting thorough body searches since the COVID-19 protocol is in place.
A team quarantined
“They will cleverly hide the drug in parts of their clothing or body.
The carriers are usually from Tamil Nadu or Karnataka. Recently a person from Bengaluru was booked in Thrissur, but the entire team that arrested him from the hotel room was instructed to go in quarantine,” says an official.
“During raids at illicit liquor dens during the lockdown we could find a lot of evidence including brewing equipment, sealing machines and fake holographic stickers.
But drug cases require physical contact and it is not possible to question or search any random person since there is a high possibility of getting infected. During the lockdown there was a dip in drug-related cases and the reason is this,” he adds.
Checking travel history
Even if the department arrests a person, it is not an ideal time to extend the investigation to several others.
“Usually one person will lead us to others who are part of the network. But now we first need to cross-check their travel history and if they recently had any contact with COVID-19 patients.”
Of late, the rackets have been using vegetable trucks from Tamil Nadu to transport drugs, but it is not easy to search all vehicles, especially when many of them are from hotspots.
“In Ernakulam and Thrissur we could seize some vehicles with the help of tip-offs, but it is not practical to go for extensive drug busts and check every vehicle. Our informants are also not in a position to track the dealings with precision nowadays,” he adds.