State must mount a sustained campaign to wean Goans away
ALTHOUGH drug trade in Goa is an illicit business in which Indians as well as foreigners have been involved, it is the growing involvement of a considerable number of Goans that is causing concern. The data released by the Goa police for the first five months of 2019 has revealed that 23 per cent of the people arrested in drug-related cases were Goans. Of the 89 cases registered by the police, the Anti Narcotics Cell (ANC) booked 12 and the Crime Branch 5. The North Goa police registered 46 cases and the South Goa police 26. The police seized over 22 kg of drugs worth around Rs 1.32 crore. The data reveals that over 50 per cent of those arrested in drug cases came from other parts of the country. Foreigners accounted for 25 per cent. Out of the 93 accused in drug cases, 22 are Goans, 47 from other states and 24 foreigners, including 14 Russians. The number of Goans held in drug cases has been hovering between 22 and 28 per cent in the last few years. From being occasional drug users in the early 1970s the Goans appear to have graduated to drug trade. The fact that drug trade was rising in the state was admitted by Laxmikant Parsekar during his chief ministerial tenure. As the number of cases booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act and the cases involving Goans are rising the state has to find the reasons and take steps to prevent Goans from falling into the drug trap. Among the reasons cited by police for attraction to Goans are growing unemployment and lure of easy money.
The state government has to focus on political, social and economic measures to wean Goans away from drug trade. It is widely believed that collusion and inaction of local police and absence of any weaning campaign by the state government over the years led some Goans first toward drug consumption. The same causes led Goans toward drug retailing. Of the 191 arrested in drug cases between 2013 and 2015, as many as 52 (27 per cent) were Goans. The year 2017 saw 60 Goans held in drug cases, the largest ever. The state police have to mount a much more decisive campaign to cleanse the state of drugs. In 2016, the number of drug-related cases came down to 60. There was however a dramatic increase in the number of drug cases in 2017 with 165 cases booked by the police, showing an increase of almost 400 per cent over the previous year. In 2018, the number of cases rose to 221. Though the state government has declared zero tolerance policy against drugs the trade, which came with the arrival of hippies in the late 1960s, continues unabated.
As a result of dubious policing at the local level, the drug trade which was limited to the coastal belt till about a decade ago has spread to the hinterland. The number of drug consumers in hinterland is increasing. The growing drug trade also poses risks of major crimes like terror as the illicit business has wide national and international links. The channels of drug trade, which are normally used for making money, can be used to finance terror activities.
Not that the ANC and the Crime Branch are not acting to curb the illicit trade. They have busted several cases and keep on conducting raids to seize drugs. That is one of the reasons why in recent years the number of drug cases registered has been rising. However, the manpower, mobility resources and technology of the ANC and the Crime Branch are very inadequate. The government cannot win its war against the drug gangs unless they provide adequate resources to their drug fighting instruments. They have to give them all support so that they can collect constant and more accurate intelligence on the movements and business dealing of suspects. The ANC, the Crime Branch and the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) must share information and organize action in a coordinated manner to be more effective. They must collect irrefutable evidence for making convictions happen.