Uttar Pradesh is India’s most populated state and is located near the capital, New Delhi. It depends on agriculture, but the western area has a long history of manufacturing and distributing arms. These cities have become hotspots for criminal activity, including drug and weapon trafficking and the production of counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, criminal groups took advantage of the increased control over border movements to smuggle goods disguised as essential commodities. These groups are connected to local politicians and law enforcement through the caste system, allowing them to exploit border checkpoints. The second COVID-19 wave in India coincided with local elections in Uttar Pradesh, leading to an increase in election violence, demand, and production of guns, alcohol, and pharmaceuticals.

The lockdown restrictions and criminal laws were exploited by pre-pandemic political dynamics. Criminal groups and their armed gangs continue to operate with impunity as the number of urban and rural poor continue to rise, falling into debt traps and turning to informal and illicit economies for support.