Dependency and substance abuse are among the most serious threats to society. Across the globe, many nations have prescribed stringent punishments for offences related to supply, possession or use of substances.
Some West Asian countries have death penalty for offences related to drugs. The reason for such severe punishment is the enormous destructive potential of drugs and substances. They can destroy a generation and especially the young.
Moreover, dependency and substance abuse have grave consequences on the psyche of not only the user but also on his family. It is precisely for these reasons that substance abuse and dependency are always shrouded in secrecy and mostly kept within the confines of closely-knit friends.
But in many cases, the family might not even be aware that their children are in the grip of substance abuse. And even if they come to know about this problem, they desperately try to keep it hidden due to the social stigma that would come to be attached to the drug user and his family. Owing to these factors, the drug business thrives through cartels, druglords and mafia gangs.
Drugs and substance abuse is a costly hobby. This business flourishes in rich circles. No wonder the Pearl City woke up to a rude shock in July this year when prominent personalities from the Telugu film industry were summoned by the State Excise Department.
The depth of this menace came to light only when the Telangana government sent notices to top 20 schools and colleges in the twin cities asking them to take immediate steps to check the use of LSD and other substances by students as young as in Class VIII and IX.
This is especially alarming since school and college authorities had no inkling about their students getting used to LSD and other substances. Most of these students are from well-to-do families as this is an expensive habit.
The Excise officials arrested 19 criminals, including alleged kingpin Calvin Mascarenhas, suspecting them to be drug peddlers. Unfazed by these arrests, the druglords issued death threats to the chief of the investigation team of the Excise Department. This is an indication of the deep-rooted malignant drug supply system.
Tip of the Iceberg
With these arrests, can we breathe a sigh of relief and say that our city is now rid of drug menace? If we are presuming this, we are grossly mistaken. Those caught and incarcerated by the Excise Department are not the bosses of the drug cartel or the drug mafia dons. They are not even the big-time dealers in banned drugs.
Those caught are small-time suppliers and might have got caught for possessing small quantities of banned drugs. They at best are the conduits for the druglords to maintain supply chain for these drugs and substance to the end users.
The Excise sleuths should not lower their guard against the drug menace in our city. The drug menace needs to be tackled through a multi-pronged strategy that includes addressing the ‘demand’ side of this issue on top priority.
The main demand for banned drugs such as LSD, amphetamine, buprenorphine, cocaine, diazepam, MDMA, heroin, methamphetamine and morphine comes from youth from the affluent section of society.
If this demand is effectively eliminated, reduced or minimised through multiple interventions such as de-addiction centres, counselling and educating parents, the supply of drugs and substances will reduce in Hyderabad.
Because of the stringent provisions in NDPS Act (Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985), these banned drugs and substances are always kept on ‘float’ by the suppliers/deliverers rather than keeping them as a ‘stock’, which has a huge risk of getting caught.
Further, possession of even a small quantity of certain drugs is a serious offence under the NDPS Act. For example, physical possession or unauthorised storage of even 0.5 g of MDMA or 1 g of buprenorphine is liable for six months’ imprisonment. If higher quantities of these drugs are in possession, the punishment may range from 10 years to 20 years, depending on the quantity.
So, drug peddlers always keep their small stocks in ‘float’ to evade police detection as well as for quick disposal to the potential user. This is one of the biggest challenges for the law enforcement agency while detecting drug cases.
Deal from all Sides
Impulse control in addicts is a good remedy to eliminate demand for drugs. Certainty of punishment for use or possession of banned substances will enhance deterrence.
Effective use of surveillance technology in identifying peddlers, stockists of banned drugs, cartel bosses, mafia dons and incarcerating them would help in eliminating the supply dimension to this menace.
The government must also create a specialised Anti-Drug Unit with specially-trained and adequately equipped staff to deal with various dimensions of drug menace that include action against producers and manufacturers of illegal drugs; and to tackle cases of possession, selling, purchase, transport of drugs, inter-State imports and exports and for identifying users of drugs for effective and deterrent criminal action against them.
Parents and NGOs also need to play a critical role in addressing this menace. The law enforcers have to enrol these segments of society for effective tackling of the drug menace in Hyderabad.
(The author, an IPS officer, is IG-CRPF in Hyderabad)