Ecommerce, a safe passage for illegal designer drugs?

Editor | Sep 10, 2020

Have you seen the latest TVC of Noida based Indian ecommerce company IndiaMart? In the ad, we see celebrated Indian actor Irrfan Khan declare, ‘India ki har khoj, IndiaMart se shuru, IndiaMart pe khatam.’ This can be roughly translated as ‘India’s every search, starts with IndiaMart and ends with IndiaMart’.

Little did we know that the claim also includes khoj (search) for illegal, addictive and designer drugs.  

Methylone, Bath Salts and Ecstasy on IndiaMart

  The dealings are discreet but it’s happening nonetheless.

A meth seller listed on the portal admitted, “Look, I know this is a controlled substance. But we’re very discreet. We ship worldwide. We’re a verified seller and you can even confirm that with IndiaMart.”

Selling online provides cover?

Ecommerce players often practice a zero tolerance policy on fake products. One would assume that zero tolerance policy applies to drugs too. While authorities have come hard on merchants that sell banned items such as e-cigarettes, little has been done about banning addictive substances that are being sold in bulk on online marketplaces.

Sample this: The above mentioned IndiaMart meth dealer confidently stated, “We don’t really have police trouble from this.”

Another merchant who sells ecstasy on the site revealed how they only advertise their products on IndiaMart and that they don’t need permission from the etailer to ship them. He added that as ecstasy is not legal in every country, they ship discreetly. How the illegal substance goes unnoticed and crosses borders? He didn’t reveal that.

IndiaMart’s VP, Sumit Bedi accepts that a small percentage of their trade involves sellers offering restricted substances in spite of stating under its ‘Terms and Conditions’ that engaging in fraudulent or illegal activities will lead to termination. What’s stopping them from banning such ‘verified’ sellers and terminating their contracts?

Hard to trace for authorities

The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) is facing a tough time to take action against online sellers & marketplaces that sell prohibited drugs due to the ecommerce business structure. Merchants provide fake addresses & numbers and communicate only via emails.

Plus designer drugs are packaged and repackaged in a new shape, form and name at regular intervals, which makes it even harder for NCB to keep track.

“We are looking into the matter. The portals do not provide phone numbers and are not present on ground. They have a different way of functioning,” said, NCB’s Zonal Director Hari Om Gandhi last year.

IndiaMart’s Bedi claims that vendors use slang names while listing drugs which “neither the government nor marketplaces like us are able to figure them out.”

But one can easily find ‘methylone’ on the portal, which falls under substances banned or controlled in India (means sale & distribution prohibited except for medical and scientific purposes) under the NDPS Act. And no, methylone isn’t a slang word.

Considering the ill-effects of substance abuse, it is high time authorities take strict action against people who are abusing the ecommerce medium by making affordable drugs easily accessible.

Sellers, what’s your take on this matter? Please leave your comments.

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