Punjab Police and the Special Task Force (STF) have busted a racket of habit-forming drugs operating across the state with the arrest of a Ludhiana-based chemist, who was its kingpin, the STF chief said on Tuesday.
Accused Pardeep Goyal was arrested in Ludhiana, where he used to operate from a medical store, and a search of his residence led to the seizure of 20,500 narcotic tablets, Additional Director General of Police and STF chief Gurpreet Deo said at a press conference at STF headquarters in Mohali.
"During the search of his residence, 20,500 tablets were recovered by police," she said.
Goyal's name had come up while questioning of a peddler, identified as Sunil Kumar, alias Sonu, was underway, Deo said. Sonu was arrested on July 11 after 1,56,000 banned narcotic tablets were found in his vehicle.
"During Sonu's questioning, it came to light that he had stored some more banned tablets in a godown in Maur Mandi, Bathinda. When the godown was checked, it led to the recovery of about nine lakh tablets," she said.
Deo said out of over 10 lakh tablets recovered in raids conducted by the Bathinda Police, over 9 lakh were Tramadol tablets. Tramadol is an opioid pain medication used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain but addicts use it "to get high", she added.
"Tramadol tablets, which are strictly available on prescription, used to be sold to addicts at four to five times higher than the retail price for one strip," Gurpreet Deo said.
Sonu had disclosed that he obtained the supplies from Pardeep Goyal, she said.
"During preliminary investigations, backward linkages of this racket led to Zirakpur in Punjab and Delhi, and we are now making further investigations into this," she said.
The STF chief said that the accused chemist "had been dealing with large scale diversion of banned drugs and had obtained a wholesale drug license" in Ludhiana in 2007.
"Subsequently, in a raid conducted by a drug inspector, his licence was suspended for 21 days over violations. After this, he changed the name of his firm on the same license in 2011. But his licence was again cancelled in 2018 after recovery of 7 lakh banned tablets from his premises.
"However, accused Pardeep Goyal again started a new firm by using the licence of a relative who is based in Solan. During the investigation, it has come to light that Goyal has supplied 70 lakh habit-forming tablets throughout Punjab, mainly in Amritsar, Phagwara, Hoshiarpur and Bathinda over the last 10 months," Deo said.
Commissioner, Food and Drug Administration of Punjab, KS Pannu said 16,000 licensed chemists were selling pharmaceutical drugs in Punjab, of which 117 chemist shops were found to be selling banned drugs, resulting in the cancellation of 421 licences in the last five months.
He said 15 offending chemists have already been convicted and 10 were declared proclaimed offenders during the past five-month period.
He added that no new licences would be issued to any chemist after being cancelled once.
Gurpreet Deo said that the STF, in the last two years, successfully ensured the arrest of 33,591 drug traffickers, besides seizing narcotics, including 759.66 kg heroin and 17.88 kg smack.
Apart from this, the STF has confiscated 97,986.416 kg opium, 296.039 kg poppy husk, 296.039 kg charas and 5474.671 kg ganja, besides seizing 1,17,008 narcotics injections and over 1.60 crore pills/capsules.