Problem cannot be wished away by denying involvement of Goans
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s statement that Goans were not involved in drug trade belies facts staring in his home department’s face. It may embolden the criminal elements in the Goan society and have a negative influence on the state police that has been combating drug trade and arresting foreigners, Indians from other states and Goans and prosecuting them. Sawant has promised his government will not spare anyone indulging in drug-related activities, which is welcome but that should not let Goans involved in it go free as it will negatively affect Goan society.
According to the data released by law enforcement agencies nearly 28 per cent of those arrested by police in drug trade are ethnic Goans. A denial of this fact might imply that either his police have “framed” innocent Goans or Sawant has not been properly informed by the department. The trend according to police officials is that several Goans have graduated from being casual users of psychotropic substances to drug trade over the years.
Ever since the crackdown on drug trade began after a couple of tourists died due to alleged drugs overdose in 2017, scores of Goans have been booked for involvement in psychotropic substances trade. The arrested Goans included a family of three from Mapusa – father and his two daughters. Till 2017, the government has been in denial mode about drugs trade in the state and arrests and drugs seizures were few and far in between. Since then hundreds of people including nearly 150 Goans have been arrested for drug-related crimes. According to the official data, 191 drug dealers or peddlers were arrested by the police between 2013 and 2015 of whom 52 were Goans. In 2016, 61 were booked and nearly as many people were arrested including over a dozen Goans. In the year 2017, the police booked 161 cases under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act in which 172 people, including 60 Goans were booked. And in the year 2018, 64 (27 per cent) of 237 arrested in drugs cases were from Goa.
Though big time drug trade is still controlled by foreigners, people from other parts of India as well as Goans have made inroads and are known to control certain areas and work as sub-dealers. While Goans are still considered as small fry in drug trade, many of them have made it to big league as they enjoy political patronage, especially in Anjuna, Siolim, Vagator and Baga areas. Of the 93 persons accused of being involved in drug trade in the first five months of 2019, 22 were reported to be Goans. Significantly the number of foreigners arrested in drug cases has been on decline in the recent years, which is an indication that domestic dealers have taken over the drug trade. The decline in foreigners being held in drug trade has been attributed to them changing the business style. Many of them deal within their communities and normally trade in high-end drugs. Besides, many are aware of the modus operandi of the state police and use all precaution to escape the long arm of law.
The state authorities must wake up before it is too late and take effective measures so that drug trade is wiped out of the state as drug consumption, which was limited to the coastal belt, has spread all over the state including hinterland areas. Drugs have also made inroads into educational institutions, and unless strong steps are taken to end the menace a significant number of Goan youth could fall victim to drugs and be lost to addiction. Among the reasons for Goans to get into drug trade are easy money and lack of job opportunities. With over 1.30 lakh unemployed on the live register of state employment exchange the government has a serious problem to deal with. The problem cannot be wished away by denying the fact about involvement of Goans in drug trade. The crackdown should not be carried out in segregated manner. The government should at the same time create employment opportunities to move Goan youth away from criminal temptations.