New Delhi, India
A specialist in trans-border trafficking and narcotics, Romesh Bhattacharji served as narcotics commissioner of India for ten years. His responsibilities included the detection of heroin labs and other illegal facilities, the destruction of illicit opium poppy cultivation and the supervision of legal poppy cultivation for medicinal purposes in parts of India. He also has worked as a consultant for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. He prepared a protocol for quick intelligence sharing and action between Iran and Afghanistan and has conducted extensive field research in the farming communities of Afghanistan.
In his extensive experience with the Afghan opium trade, he has found that eradication efforts are not working. “In comparison with current eradication efforts that call for aerial spraying, opium licensing in Afghanistan is a win-win solution. While it is impossible to stop all the erosion into the illegal market, it would see a vast improvement from the current 100 percent of the crop going into the illegal market.” And worse than simply being ineffective, the eradication efforts have unintended consequences: “The Taliban has used eradication efforts to their advantage, offering protection to farmers and gaining popularity,” Romesh explains.
Regarding drug abuse, he refers to the experts. “The many experienced people who have worked, uninfluenced, for a long time with all kinds of narcotics problems tend to agree that the most sensible policy is to treat drug abuse as an ailment and to completely decriminalize drugs for personal use.”
A freelance writer, Romesh has written numerous articles on security, insurgency, narcotics and tourism. He has also written a book on the insurgency afflicted north-eastern region of India. Before retiring, Romesh also served as chief commissioner of customs and as additional director general of revenue intelligence for the Indian government.