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Chasing Down Drugs in Parvati Valley and at North Goa Beaches

Popular tourist spots, Himachal’s Parvati Valley and North Goa’s beaches, are also known to be drug hotspots While youths mysteriously go missing in Kasol’s trails, people die of drug overdose in beach parties in North Goa SP Kullu district and SP (Crime) North Goa reveal the measures undertaken for controlling the drug menace Indian Masterminds special feature on International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking
Indian Masterminds Stories

Kasol in Parvati Valley in Himachal’s Kullu district and Anjuna and Vagator beaches in North Goa are (in)famous for rave parties. Tourists, both foreign and domestic, frequent these spots, to lose themselves in trance-techno music, psychedelic lights, and drugs. These places are a hit with the youth, especially those hooked to weed or synthetic drugs, and also the occasional user who takes that drag or pops that pill to loosen up, shed inhibitions, and dance in abandon.

Often, heady cocktails of drugs lead to fatal overdose, keeping the police on their toes, racing against time to protect lives. Because these places are almost always overcrowded, the police have to be on high alert at all times, going after users, dealers, and the drug cartels.

Indian Masterminds spoke to SP Kullu, Ms. Saakshi Verma Karthikeyan, IPS, and SP (Crime) North Goa, Mr. Nidhin Valsan, IPS, to know about the fight against drugs in their districts.

Kullu SP Saakshi Verma Karthikeyan, IPS, leading from the front

MAKING PARVATI VALLEY SAFE

Soon after taking charge as Superintendent of Police of Kullu district in January this year, IPS officer Saakshi Verma Kartikeyan had declared that tackling drugs influx and making Parvati Valley safe for tourists would be her topmost priority. Speaking to Indian Masterminds, the 2014-batch officer of Himachal Pradesh cadre outlined the initiatives taken by her after joining as SP Kullu, post maternity leave. The mother of a 11-month-old, she doesn’t let motherhood come in the way of her fight against drugs.

She said that reaching out to the local panchayats, especially mahila mandalas, has helped her a lot in this fight. “Some mahila mandals have resolved that they will not let drug trafficking take place in their area. We are ensuring CCTV saturation in those areas and keeping a track on past offenders.”

Mentioning that cannabis grows naturally in some areas, she further said that the locals started cultivating it commercially when they started getting good prices for it. The cannabis found in Malana is considered to be one of the finest. Known as Malana Cream, it fetches very good price in both international and domestic markets. However, it is grown clandestinely as it is illegal.

In collaboration with the forest department, we are identifying areas where cannabis is being grown. Drones are also being used for this purpose. The idea is to refrain them from sowing, and create deterrence,” Ms. Karthikeyan said.

WHY YOUTHS GO MISSING IN KASOL

The officer admitted that there have been many cases of youths disappearing in the Kasol area. She is investigating the latest case of a young boy, who has been untraceable after setting off on a trek, and efforts are on to find him. According to her, most of the cases in the past are related to using intoxicated stuff and then drowning in the Parvati river, or slipping and falling off into deep gorges while on a solo trek.

“Solo trek seems to be the latest trend, but it can be very dangerous, more so if you are high on drugs or alcohol. The treks here are quite difficult and you venture into an unfamiliar terrain. So, if you slip and fall, there is no one to save you. Also, water bodies attract tourists and they go to the Parvati river, which is when accidental drowning happens,” she said.

To tackle this, her department is doing sensitisation of tourists by giving out pamphlets on entry barriers of SADA (Special Area Development Authority) and making it compulsory to paste pamphlets on public vehicles and in public places, which warn that drug trafficking is a punishable crime and going near Parvati river which is quite deep, especially under intoxication, can be dangerous. She also revealed that there is a plan to give ‘hand band trackers’ to all trekkers so that police can trace their whereabouts. “It is almost finalised, only the financial aspect is being looked into, as it will involve huge costs,” she added.

About keeping rave parties in check, she said, “Besides having got some of these parties raided, we have been deploying police force in advance in those parties that have permission (only sound permission, of course) till 10 pm, so that police presence is seen.”

She further said that mostly locals and some Nepali migrants are involved in cannabis cultivation, and there are talks going on at the government level about legalising ‘controlled cultivation’ since other than the resin which is used to make hash, the plants are also used to make bags and even shoes, and are a source of livelihood for the local people.

The International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking will be observed by Kullu Police with district wide awareness programmes, with students participating in painting and essay competition on the theme, Stay Away from Drugs’.

North Goa SP (Crime) Nidhin Valsan, IPS (left) and SP (Anti-Narcotics) Sivendu Bhusan, IPS, spearheading the action against drugs

DRUG DETECTION MACHINE HELPING NORTH GOA

North Goa is famous for Sunburn, a 3-day electronic music and dance festival held annually at the Vagator beach. It was a regular occurrence for people to die of drug overdose (OD) during this festival, until last year. What was different last year? North Goa police experimented for the first time the Drugs Detection Machine on the attendees. “A swab is taken from the mouth and within five minutes, the machine finds out if any drug has been taken and identifies the type of drug, too,” SP (Crime) North Goa, Mr. Nidhin Valsan explained to Indian Masterminds.

Because of timely detection, no cases of OD deaths were reported this time. However, only a few machines are being used on an experimental basis now, with procurement of more machines in the pipeline.

OD-related deaths are not uncommon to North Goa. The death of Sonali Phogat of Big Boss fame in the popular Curlies Shack on Anjuna beach is a recent case that made headlines.

A police team of North Goa with a drug dealer they apprehended

FOREIGNER DETENTION CENTRE

Another successful initiative is the Foreigner Detention Centre where foreigners with no visa or expired visa are kept and finally deported to their countries. This has brought down the number of foreign smugglers in North Goa. “Nigerians top the list of foreign drug peddlers. They either work alone or in a very small group. All big foreign drug mafias have been rooted out of Goa and booted out of the country,” Mr. Valsan said.

Other than this, keeping close tabs on courier agencies to detect drug despatches, special coastal force using drones for surveillance of beaches, narcotic division and crime branch working together, narco-coordination meeting with all other departments, intelligence sharing with neighbouring states, and regular awareness camps in schools and colleges, have all contributed to the fight against drugs in North Goa. Also, a proposal has been sent to the central government seeking permission for the formation of Youth Corps, to intervene in school and colleges, Mr. Valsan informed.

The International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking will be observed by Goa Police with a 10 km run, open for all, under the theme, ‘Run Against Narcotic Drugs’.


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