KATHMANDU, Dec 20: In July 1998, Krishna Gopal Paneru got wind of a hashish (charas) racket active in Dhading district. He vowed to himself to bust it and started an undercover operation.
Disguising himself as a successful drugs dealer, he remained there for about a month and befriended the locals. He struck several deals with the agents, including one Ram BK (name changed), with whom he spent several days and nights.
Paneru became BK's 'trustworthy' friend.
But one night near Dangdunge Khola, Simle, BK was arrested with 125 kgs of hashish by Paneru while delivering the contraband to him. BK was dumbfounded.
Paneru joined the police force in 1989 as an assistant sub-inspector and was posted to NDCLEU (Narcotic Drugs Control Law Enforcement Unit), a small unit established in 1992. He has successfully carried out hundreds of such operations since. NDCLEU was later upgraded into the Narcotics Control Bureau headed by a DIG.
The chiefs of the anti-narcotic entity have changed more than 14 times and its name has also changed. But Paneru, 51, a treasure house of narcotics information, has remained a permanent fixture there.
Every senior official transferred to the police unit first turns to Paneru as he is the one who can deal with the drugs mafia, the peddlers, the addicts, and size up any contraband seizure.
“My 20 years as an anti-narcotic enforcer have given me the skills to dig into any kind of narcotics crime,” said Paneru.
"After participating in anti-narcotics training, I started handling cases and I always gave it my best under the circumstances," he recalled. "I became addicted to my job like junkies are addicted to drugs."
Inspector Paneru, a Kathmandu Valley local from Purano Naikap-9, said, “I have had several failures and faced threats and manhandling by the mafia, drug peddlers and sometimes drug abusers also.”
“But for all that, I have also received high praise and my work has been frequently acknowledged,” he says with real satisfaction.
Paneru got his one and only promotion in 1997, a day after a successful operation at Tribhuwan International Airport, in which a hashish racket operating to Denmark was busted.
Acting on suspicion about a Danish national who was about to board a flight with 32 nicely-crafted wooden doors and windows, Paneru started drilling the lower part of the wooden frames just an hour prior to flight time.
“My suspicion was confirmed after hashish started to fall out of the drilled holes,” he said.
Police immediately made an arrest and recovered 203 kgs of concealed drugs from cavities worked into the wooden frames. “I was overwhelmed by the success and by praise from top officials,” he recounted.
Like Paneru, Nepal Police has other staff who are hardly ever transferred to other units. According to police spokesperson DIG Hemant Malla, units like the Special Bureau, NCB, Crime Division and CIB have staff that have been contributing from a single unit for more than a decade, he said.
Of late, Nepal Police has come up with an upgraded 'Action Plan' that shifts the focus of training to groom experts from within the institution. Out of the total force of 72,000, the rank and file get only 28 percent of the training provided every year, with the rest of the training going to the higher ranks. This means there is little chance of producing experts.
So, it is long-term service in some specific units and the experience gained by personnel like Paneru that have helped in effective service delivery.
DIG Malla said, “We are also aware about performance and merit and do not let sticking to one unit only compromise anything.” As for Paneru, he added that he wished to retire from the same bureau and continue serving in the same field after retirement also.