Telangana Gets Its Act Together To Check Growing Drug Menace

Hyderabad: The decision of the Telangana government to crackdown on drug abuse comes in the wake of growing menace of consumption of cannabis (ganja), opium and other psychotropic substances in Hyderabad and some other parts of the State.

The large-scale seizure of ganja in different parts of the State in recent weeks besides the recovery of heroin while being smuggled in also point to the disturbing trend of Hyderabad emerging as a centre for peddling and consumption of narcotic drugs.

The availability of ganja and other substances in some parts of the city and their consumption at the parties in and around the city has also sent alarm bells ringing.

A ganja-fuelled party busted at Shamshabad on the outskirts of Hyderabad two days ago indicates the alarming trend. The party was thrown by a 21-year-old real estate agent on her birthday at a club. She was arrested along with five friends who were consuming ganja.

The police conducted the raid on the party following a tip-off. This came a couple of days after Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao asked the police and excise department to deal with the menace of drugs with an iron hand.

During the recent Assembly Session, the chief minister had promised to come down heavily on the menace after Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) leader Akbaruddin Owaisi drew his attention towards the problem.

Owaisi, who represents Chandrayangutta constituency in Hyderabad, voiced concern over growing drug abuse and urged the government to take immediate steps.

The chief minister on October 20 convened a high-level meeting and directed the police and excise officials to declare an all-out war against drug abuse and drug trafficking in the state.

He said drug menace should be dealt with iron hand before the situation went out of hand.

During the meeting, the chief minister said the reports of drug addicts forming WhatsApp groups in the state, exchanging messages on drug availability, purchasing and consuming drugs were alarming.

In what comes as another indicator of disturbing trends, migrant labourers, youth, auto drivers and Hamalis (porters) are found to be consuming ganja.

He directed officials to form a special cell with a DG-level officer to check drug menace in the state by monitoring and preventing transportation of ganja from entering the state. He asked officials to wipe out opium’s illegal cultivation and usage and stamp it down with a firm foot.

He wanted the officials to arrest those supplying ganja and put an end to the supply of the substance.

The officials say ganja is being cultivated in Andhra-Odisha region and it is supplied to Telangana through Chintur and Bhadrachalam and later to Karnataka and Maharashtra states. They say ganja is also being produced and supplied from Chhattisgarh.

“We will be working out a coordinated strategy with neighbouring states and increase the surveillance by setting up more checkposts, especially on the inter-state borders,” a senior police official said.

A day before the high-level meeting held on October 19, Hyderabad police arrested one of the kingpins of the ganja supplying gangs, identified as Vanapalli Naga Sai, from Narsipatnam in Andhra Pradesh and seized 40 kg ganja from him.

On the same day, police in Sangareddy district seized 240 kg of ganja which was smuggled from Visakhapanam.

Police in Hyderabad city alone have seized 1,500 kg of ganja this year till September and arrested 128 persons involved in 82 cases of smuggling ganja. The arrested peddlers include two foreign nationals booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.

Director General of Police M. Mahender Reddy asked police officials to take stringent measures to identify the hotspots of the ganja consumption centres and control them.

Analysts say the problem of drug abuse and drug trafficking in the state is multi-layered and the departments concerned will have to work at different levels to curb the menace.

Bulk of the ganja being seized in the state in recent months was being transported from other states but there are certain pockets of the state where it is being cultivated.

Village sarpanches will be asked to inform the Excise officials about the Ganja cultivation in their villages. After identifying those cultivating Ganja, the authorities will ensure that they don’t receive benefits of the Rythu Bandhu and Rythu Bhima schemes meant for farmers.

Realising that the problem is multifaceted, the authorities are embarking on special programmes to create awareness among the youth about drug abuse. They will make short films and video ads on the ill effects of the drugs.

The chief minister also wanted officials to include lessons in the school curriculum on the ill effects of drugs.

The direction to focus on educational institutions is significant as accused arrested in 2017 drug racket in Hyderabad had revealed that they were supplying high-end drugs to film celebrities and software engineers but also to students of some corporate schools.

The drugs racket was busted on July 2, 2017 when customs officials arrested Calvin Mascarenhas, a musician, and two others and seized drugs worth Rs 30 lakh from their possession.

Authorities had recovered 3,000 units of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), 105 grams of MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy), 45 grams of cocaine and other narcotic and psychotropic substances from the accused.

The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Telangana Excise Department had registered 12 cases, arrested 30 people and questioned 62 individuals including 11 people connected with Telugu film industry under NDPS Act

The SIT filed chargesheet in eight out of 12 cases. It, however, gave clean chit to the film personalities who were questioned as part of the investigation.

In June this year, three African nationals including two women were arrested at Hyderabad Airport and heroin worth about Rs.100 crore in the international grey market was seized from them.

Officials from the Hyderabad unit of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) seized 3 kg of heroin from a man from Tanzania on June 21. He had arrived from Johannesburg via Doha.

Earlier, on the intervening night of June 5 and 6, a woman from Uganda and another from Zambia were arrested in separate instances for attempting to smuggle in a total of 12 kg heroin worth around Rs 78 crore in the international grey market. They too had travelled to Hyderabad via Johannesburg and Doha