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Tamil Nadu is second on the list of registered drug abuse cases as per data released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The state government has launched a major campaign against drugs. The neighbouring state of Kerala also is facing a similar situation of high intensity drug and substance abuse cases involving students and youth forcing that state government to launch a multi-pronged campaign against the all pervading clutches of drug mafia cartels. Tamil Nadu may benefit from studying the Kerala experience.

Alarmed by the gravity of the situation, the Tamil Nadu DGP Sylendra Babu himself had announced recently that through meticulous action the police would root-out the clutches of drug mafia in the state within six months.  What sent alarm bells ringing was the recently submitted 2021 report of the NCRB which puts Tamil Nadu at the third slot (5403 cases)  in the country in terms of cases registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985. While Uttar Pradesh has topped the table with 10,852 cases, Punjab has ranked second with 6909 cases.

The threat is more alarming in Kerala as the state registered a three-fold increase in the total number of cases registered so far this year, going by the data of State Crime Records Bureau. In 2020 as many as 4650 cases were registered whereas in 2021 the numbers have increased to 5334 cases. In 2022 so far 16956 cases were registered.

‘No to drugs’ campaign
Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has announced the launch of a statewide month-long campaign against the drug mafia roping in the support of all elements including various government departments, state and central government agencies, NGOs, religious groups and other organizations, apart from police and excise. Considering the urgency of the situation Vijayan, who was on a European trip, launched the campaign online on October 6.  Since then each vital department including police, excise, education, local administration and revenue are on with special drives to check the spread of drugs as well as to track and trace back the drug circulation network.

Recently submitted  2021 report of the NCRB which puts Tamil Nadu at the third slot (5403 cases)  in the country in terms of cases registered under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985

District-level monitoring committees have been formed under the chairmanship of district collector in which the people’s representatives are playing a key role. Such committees have been formed in each panchayat, ward and also at all educational institutions with the help of Parent Teachers Associations.  A network of auto rickshaw drivers has been weaved out along with the head-load workers in all major cities to track the movement of drugs as well as habitual peddlers.

Tamil Nadu DGP Sylendra Babu has promised results in six months

Increasing drug abuse among students
Initiated during the early teens with an experimental use of inhalants such as glue, petrol, eraser fluid, aerosols, later the students graduate to alcohol, tobacco and develop an interest in other more exciting drugs. Initiated by friends and other kith and kin, many of the new entrants in the arena take it as a pleasure experience while others fall into the trap just for a ‘curiosity’. For many, it is the exit route from the extremely hostile conditions. Rich students lavish money in search of joy and ecstasy while the poor students would trap the rich for money to have a taste of their share of ecstasy. Girl students are lured into the nexus by giving small doses of drugs in the guise of mild intoxicants. Caught in the web, they are forced to double as carriers to find money to buy drugs.

Some end up in another shade of flesh trade to mobilize funds to sustain the habit. Recently a woman trader of Wayanad had shared her experience when a girl approaching her for Rs 20, saying that she had missed her bus.  When the same girl repeated the same story in another shop on another day, the woman turned suspicious and informed the police. It was revealed that the young girl was lured into the world of drugs by older boys who had given her to taste it in small doses. Later they had demanded money from her. Now the girl is undergoing treatment while her mother is attending a counseling session. Police sources reveal that they are not filing cases against students and underage drug abusers. Rather they are used to track the peddlers and their hideouts.

What is more worrying for the Kerala government is the ever expanding grip of drug mafia elements among school children and youth. Experts have pointed out that the hyperactivity of youth in the society during the post-Covid scenario has aggravated the situation.

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The Kerala campaign seems to be bearing results. The excise department arrested two prominent drug dealers of the state Jineesh, a native of Kaipamangalam, and Vishnu alias ‘Kerala Bro’, both from Thrissur district. Both had told police that they have been supplying drugs to as many as 250 students in Thrissur district alone with MDMA, a popular synthetic drug.  Going by the customers’ list of the duo police also found out that each student has been spending as many as Rs 3,000 every month for sourcing drugs.

Kerala CM Pinnarayi Vijayan launched the campaign online while on a trip since the matter was so urgent

A massive effort is on by the excise department personnel to track the students and ensure counseling to family and treatment for the needy.   With exclusive gadgets, unique Whatsapp and Face Book groups have been established as part of the communication network to reach out. When nabbed the duo had been developing a customer base among the fishermen community.

MDMA production units
Recent arrests have revealed that the drug mafia is also on with a bid to develop a network of MDMA processing units (Cooking Centres) across Kerala as the drug trafficking to the state has become tough with police and other agencies maintaining a high vigil. Many women were recruited to run such MDMA preparation centres established in Thiruvananthapuram, Malappuram and Ernakulam. As a result, large quantities of MDMA have been seized during raids at Poovar in Thiruvananthapuram and at a hotel in Kochi.

Experts have pointed out that the hyper activity of youth in the society during the post-Covid scenario has aggravated the situation

Arrests, raids and seizures
In another incident the excise department that busted a drug peddling network is on the lookout for a woman namely Susmitha Philip who is also known as ‘Teacher’ among the peddlers.  Appearing at the police station as an innocent woman, she had managed to escape. In August the excise department personnel had nabbed the kingpin of an international drug network, Shakkeel Harshad from Chakkumkadavu, near Calicut, seizing drugs worth many crores of rupees. His network had a daily sale to the tune of about Rs 1.5 lakh, according to police. The racket was engaged in supplying drugs to school and college students of Malappuram and Kozhikode districts. It was a joint drive of Kasaba police, District Crime Squad and District Anti Narcotics Special Action Force.

The cops unearthed the racket when seizing drugs including MDMA 212  gm, LSD stamps and other substances from his vehicle and later during a raid at his hideout, 100 gm of MDMA, 10 gm of Hashish oil, 170 ecstasy tablets and 345 LSD stamps. In the last six months the special squad had seized 47 kg ganja, 500 gm of MDMA and 50 gm of brown sugar from the city.

Deal executed by total strangers
 As the majority of field-level operators are strangers to each other it is tough for the police to nab them. The modus operandi is like this. Initially the client contacts the local agent over phone who gives the WhatsApp number of the ‘Boss’, the leader who likely lives in the Gulf . The ‘Boss’ asks the client to share his location, vehicle number and colour, apart from the quantity to be purchased and amount to be spent. The ‘boss’, again through a third person, ensures that the credentials given by the client are true. Then the boss will call the supplier to hand over the substance.

A total of 652 drug abuse cases were registered in just 4 days starting from September 5 to September 8 by the joint raids of police and excise 775 kg of ganja, 490 liters of spirit and 1.5 kg of MDMA. The addicts also earn easy money by doubling as retail distributors to amass funds for sourcing drugs.

Also Read: Book on Thoothukudi uncovers humane side of heinous crimes

Meanwhile the sleuths in Kochi are tracking a network of drug abusers who exchange drugs through the food supply chain of major food supply players in the city. The city crime squad had hit upon the network by penetrating into a group of drug and substance abusers. To tide over the financial lull during the Corona crisis, many groups, both indigenous as well as global players, had introduced picking up and dropping of other substances like books, cards, documents etc  to create an additional income to the employees in the network. Many youngsters in the city have found it an ideal network to exchange LSD Stickers and MDMA. as it is tough for the cops to identify the abusers of these substances.

Security zone around educational institutions
As the drug cartels increasingly target schools and colleges as their centres of earning, the government is creating security circles around schools and colleges. The campaign has activated a fraternity among the police, teachers, PTA, auto drivers, head-load workers and merchants nearby educational institutions who work together to weed out the threat of drug abuse from school premises. The local administrative bodies have also activated their own campaign system by constituting ward-level committees and organizing programmes at grass-root level.

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