India’s anti-drug agency seized a huge haul of opium from smugglers who allegedly rammed their lorry into police vehicles in an attempt to escape arrest.
Six people were arrested in the operation.
Authorities said after a brief chase they confiscated about 270kg of narcotics worth 140 million rupees ($1.7 million) found in secret cavities near the rear wheels of a lorry trailer.
The police vehicles were severely damaged in the incident and the suspected smugglers were arrested after a chase, according to an official statement on Wednesday.
“The government vehicle and the truck [were] severely damaged but the driver of the government vehicle exhibited exceptional bravery and presence of mind, along with officers of CBN [Central Bureau of Narcotics], to foil the escape plan of drug traffickers,” the statement read.
Earlier this month, the agency seized 95 packets of opium weighing 102kg hidden in an articulated lorry trailer travelling from remote north-east India to western Rajasthan state and 33 packets of opium weighing 33kg from Haryana.
In both cases, the illicit substance was concealed in purpose-built cavities between the rear wheels of the trailer, the agency said.
India is the world’s biggest producer of legal opium for the global pharmaceutical market, according to the Ministry of Fertilisers.
Only a dozen countries allow its legal cultivation for medicinal use ― its extracts, such as morphine, are mainly used as painkillers.
But the substance, brought to India in the ninth century for medicinal purposes, is widely abused, leading to drug trafficking.
In 2019, an estimated 2.1 per cent of India's population between 10 and 75 years old were addicted to opioids, the government said.
The country, especially the northern Punjab, and western Rajasthan and Gujarat, act as an international transit route for drugs from Aghanistan.
Authorities in July seized 75kg of heroin worth more than 3.5 billion rupees from a container near the country's largest commercial Mundra port in Gujarat.
The contraband was hidden inside fabric rolls in a container kept at a freight station outside the Mundra port in Kutch.
India's opium haul in 2019 was the fourth-largest in the world. Its haul of morphine and heroin was the seventh-largest.