Of late, ministers and legislators have been raising the issue of drugs in the state. Water Resources Minister Vinod Palyekar fears threat to his life after he raised the issue and has sought extra security cover. Taking note of the concerns expressed by ministers and MLAs about growing drug problem, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has asked upon them to pass on the information they have about drug peddling and consumption to the government, assuring them that his government was committed to make Goa drug-free. In a letter to MLAs, Parrikar has asked them not to make remarks in public that could have a demoralising effect on the police force and tarnish the image of Goa. He felt that such remarks could alert drug peddlers.
Drug pushing has a long history in the state, with many tracing it back to the coming of the hippies to the beaches of Goa in the late 1960s. Every government promised to ‘eliminate the drug menace’ but did not succeed. Police action has remained limited to a few seizures, especially when an incident like the death of one or more young drug addicts takes place or the issue is raised in the media. It could be the failure on the part of the police to show results that probably compelled the legislators to express their views in public on the alleged police-peddler nexus. Surprisingly in a bid to score a point over the others, legislators from the ruling groups sought to make public remarks, rather than taking up the matter with the Chief Minister. If they had any credible information of prevalence of drug peddling and consumption in their constituencies or elsewhere they should have passed it on to the top brass of the police or the Chief Minister and sought a silent but immediate action. Claims about ‘knowledge’ of existence of drugs, nexus between police and drug mafia, are not new as such statements have been made in the past and even a House committee was formed on the issue. Were their recent outbursts a result of their frustration as the police authorities failed to act on their complaints?
Availability and consumption of drugs were activities presumably limited to the coastal belt, but have over the years spread to the hinterland. Drugs are believed to be available to young people even on the campuses of educational institutions. More and more Goan youth are getting addicted to drugs. They start out with experiments and get sucked into the hallucinatory world. The police have not been able to keep an eye on those who are supplying drugs to young people. It could be that they have the information on the demand and supply networks around educational institutions but are hesitant to act because of complications that could arise out of such raids. Concerted action is what is needed. Some time ago, two students of a college were found to be in possession with drugs, but we are not sure whether the demand and supply network of drugs around that college has been busted.
Now that Parrikar has assured the MLAs they will expect him to show results by driving police to go after all those involved in drugs. However, while giving free hand to the police in dealing with sternly with the drugs mafia the government should ensure that police action is not on a pick and choose basis, as that would prove the allegation of MLAs about police-peddler nexus. As the authorities of educational institutions have not fought shy of saying that drugs were available around their campuses they must be having some information about drug consumption by their students.
The first task Parrikar needs to give the police is preventing Goan youth from falling in the drug trap. He should ask the police to draw up a new strategy to achieve that and to take it as the top priority. Collection of information about and keeping vigilance on shops or homes in the neighbourhood of educational institutions allegedly selling drugs to students should be tasks assigned to multiple agencies – the Anti Narcotic Cell, the local police, the local informers, community groups and NGOs. Multiple sources of information would leave the peddlers and consumers no scope for escaping one or the other’s attention. Somewhere, sometime they would be spotted. The fight against drugs cannot go on in the routine manner. It would be too late to save the Goan youth from drugs. Parrikar’s chief task is to make anti-drug police strategies truly effective in order to prevent Goa from turning into another Punjab.