The Barabanki Narcos: Busting India’s Most Notorious Drug Cartel by Aloke Lal
Published by: Hachette India
Non Fiction: True Crime, 190p
Rating: 3.50/5 stars
In 1984 – a politically charged time in northern India – Aloke Lal, a young officer, is posted to Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh, as the Chief of Police.
In the small, backward district, known for little other than its opium production and smuggling rackets, Lal finds himself in the middle of a well-entrenched web of crime run by a dangerous drug mafia whose seemingly endless supply of black money appears to have bought out local politicians and district officials and influenced higher rungs of power.
Determined to annihilate the opium chain, Lal sets out on a path that sees him make unlikely allies and deadly enemies as he is led from the red-light districts of Lucknow to midnight highway interceptions and perilous raids that shake up the Barabanki cartel. But do such actions against powerful criminal organizations ever come without consequences? And what political games are being played in the corridors of power even as this upright officer tries to ride the gathering storm of an enraged underworld?
The Barabanki Narcos is the thrilling true story behind the largest-ever opium bust in history – the methodical build-up to the operation, the deadly aftermath and the ensuing events that would leave a lasting impact on north Indian politics – narrated by the man who led the action at the centre of it all.
About the author:
Jane Aloke Lal is a fomer Indian Police Service Officer who has been awarded medals for meritorious and distinguished services, rising to the top rank of Director General of Police. Apart from being a writer, Aloke Lal is a well known painter.
*Thank you Hachette India for the review copy. All opinions are my own.
Coming from a region whose proximity to the Golden Triangle, which produces the world’s purest and maximum amount of heroin and other narcotic drugs, I was most fascinated to read this account of a drug bust in the 80s by a Police Officer in the badlands of North India. Most non fiction writing by Indian authors, except historical narratives lack steam and tend to be dry but not this one. The sole complaint you will have of this book is that you want more anecdotes, more stories. At 190 pages, this is too short a read, more so since the build up is crisp and taut that leads to an electrifying account of the largest opium bust ever.
As the tittle itself gives it out, this is Aloke Lal’s account of the way he tackled the drug/opium menace in Barabanki in Uttar Pradesh: starting from how he builds contacts with the local people, steering clear of political interference, corruption and intimidation by gangs. The humane look at how addiction ravages individuals, families and society as a whole is captured poignantly. Apart from the events that lead to the drug busts, the author brings a vivid capture of the socio economic and political backdrop of Uttar Pradesh in the 80s and takes one to a time when the Indian Police fought its battles with the right adversary and came on top too.