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A Relentless Campaign To Rid Goa of Drugs

Before leaving Goa after his transfer Muktesh Chander, former director general of police, gave an advice to Goans: Refrain from helping anyone indulging in drug trade. According to Chander, probes into cases related to drugs had revealed that several drug dealers derived help from locals, who acted as their delivery boys, leased out accommodation and gave vehicles on hire. Locals also help the accused in drug cases get bail by standing as surety. Chander said that during his tenure he tried to improve prevention, detection and investigation of drug cases by seeking cooperation from the people. However, his very advice at the time of his departure suggests that such cooperation needs to be expand in order to reduce the ‘cooperation’ that the drug dealers are getting from the local people. There was exponential increase in the number of drug cases detected — from 61 in 2015 to 222 in 2018, which is an indication that drug trade is growing in the state.

Police action against drug traffickers was intensified following criticism that drug trade was becoming bolder and more open, with narcotics available easily to tourists and locals. The growing number of incidents of drug seizures and arrests of persons, including foreigners, found possessing drugs cases is an indication that sale and consumption of drugs was widespread in the state. In some cases, drug seizure was of big quantities, valued at several lakhs. It has been long known that  Goa was a centre for drug retail and consumption, but the seizure of about 100 kilogrammes of Ketamine, a banned party drug, from a factory in Pissurlem in Sattari taluka in June last year changed the narrative. The factory, owned by a senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vasudev Parab, was raided by the officials of the Directorate of Revenue intelligence. The worth of the drugs seized by the DRI officials at the factory was estimated to be around Rs 5 crore. Though Parab claimed innocence, saying he had sub-let his premises and did not know anything about the drugs being stored or traded there, the fact was out in the open: Goa was becoming more and more important to drug traders as a trading, warehousing and retailing point.  Several cases of narcotic drugs being manufactured or grown by locals and foreigners have been detected, with the latest being that of some Russians who were found growing marijuana in the Morjim village of Pernem taluka.

The use of psychotropic drugs was absent in the state till the arrival of the hippies. Drug trade has only gone on expanding since then. Its roots are growing deeper, thanks to connivance by the local police. The money in the business is so large the traders do not mind giving policemen a spoonful from the pie. In the beginning it was foreigners who were involved in drug trade. There have been cases of turf wars between the Russians, Nigerians and Israelis, but their gangs appear to have settled for their exclusive territories of operations. As the demand and profits from the trade grow in Goa, gangs from other parts of the country too came into it. Initially Goans refrained from drug trade but a number of them got sucked into both, and their number is only growing. Some locals have ‘graduated’ into the trade after initially serving as ‘mules’ to deliver drugs from the trader to customer.

The issue of drug trade and consumption has been discussed on the floor of the state legislative Assembly on many occasions. Soon after the DRI raid on the Pissurlem premises, former chief minister Pratapsing Rane, in whose Poriem constituency the raided factory was located, raised concerns over the intensifying drug menace in the state and raised questions why the state government failed to act against the owner of the industrial unit. Last year Tourism Minister Manohar Azgaonkar spoke of a ‘godfather’ of drug activities and accused the police of not acting against him. Following public concerns raised by ministers and MLAs Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar ordered a crackdown on drug trade and in the past years hundreds of cases have been booked, unlike a few dozens in the earlier years. However, police action turns out to be short-lived most of the times. It would take years of relentless crackdown to wipe drug trade out. The police campaign should continue unabated. The police should work out a scheme on the lines of traffic sentinels to seek help of people in identification of drug peddlers and reward the informants who help in detection of drug cases, but keeping their identity totally secret to prevent any harm to them.

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