‘Young people engage in drug peddling to live the kind of lifestyles influencers live’

‘Lifestyle, peer pressure, lure of extra pocket money and many other factors are responsible why youth are taking drugs.’

“We have arrested a lot of IT graduates and professionals who are using their knowledge to enter into nefarious activities like ordering drug from the Dark Net using cryptos. Rather than nation-building, these youth are using their knowledge to meet their lifestyle needs,” Sameer Wankhede — zonal director, Narcotics Control Bureau for Maharashtra and Goa — tells Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com in the concluding part of a two-part interview.

  • Part 1: ‘Drug crime is the most serious crime our country is facing’

What explains the sudden emergence of the so-called ‘natural’ drugs?

Consumers of these drugs believe that these so-called ‘natural’ drugs are natural (as opposed to synthetically made drugs) and so are not harmful and don’t affect their bodies.

Secondly, these ‘natural’ drugs have been glorified in some kind of societies, and here I would not like to identify one particular trade or industry or profession, but certainly in some sections of Indian society, these drugs have been glorified and considered cool. That has led to an increased acceptance of these drugs in some particular societies.

Next is peer pressure among youth where you are not accepted as part of a ‘group’ if you don’t do these drugs.

The next reason is influence of social media platforms on young minds. I would again not like to name anybody, but there are social media influencers.

In order to live their kind of lives — like have branded gadgets, clothes, four-wheelers — youth not only try to imitate them, but also engage in drug peddling to live up the kind of lifestyles influencers live.

Recently, you busted a novel drug supply model to consumers where brownies were laced with weed and consumed by youth in Mumbai’s Malad suburb.
How serious is this a threat to teenagers who unknowingly could become addicted to these drugs?

As far as I remember, this is the first of a kind case where the NCB has uncovered this novel modus operandi where drugs were sold through brownies.

These were advertised via social media to the close circle of criminals who baked these brownies and consumers too come from high end societies who could pay for such expensive drugs.

These people were running a bakery in their house, inspired by the kind of Western culture that is glamourised by various OTT platforms, where sale of some narcotic drugs is legal.

They were also inspired by some serials which showed how weed-laced brownies could be baked.

The peddlers and consumers involved in this case are in the 18-25 year age group.

This is a very disturbing trend we busted and soon we will be taking action against those involved.

We arrested three suppliers and are identifying the spread of clientele in Mumbai.

There is a big network involved and this is a big investigation.

Is this a one-off case or has your investigation found out that this model is rampant across Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra and Goa?

This definitely is not a one-off case. We have identified people who are into this and they will definitely be arrested if they have not stopped sale of these products.

How do these young teenagers get into this?

Lifestyle, peer pressure, lure of extra pocket money and many other factors are responsible why youth are taking to these evil habits.

We have arrested a lot of IT graduates and professionals who are using their knowledge to enter into nefarious activities like ordering drug from the Dark Net using cryptos.

Rather than nation-building, these youth are using their knowledge to meet their lifestyle needs.

The Dark Web is full of vendors of these drugs where they demand payments via cryptos.

There are no proper KYC norms for trading in bitcoins; nobody knows who the vendor or buyer is when these transactions are done using cryptos.

Nobody knows what wallet they are using because they are not being traced.

It is an international chain and the regulatory norms are very loose.

The Dark Web helps hide identities, provide secrecy, and that acts as the USP why these criminals flock to cryptocurrencies for drugs trade.

What is the NCB doing to stop use of cryptos and Dark web for trade in narcotics?

We have booked a novel case in India and we are going deep into it (about unravelling and stopping misuse of Dark Web and cryptocurrencies).

We are trying to create a legal framework to try and stop this mode of transaction.

We have taken up this challenge under the leadership of D G (NCB Director General Rakesh Asthana) Sir and will be doing it (putting a stop to this practice).

What is the most popular drug or narcotic that is being consumed in Goa and Maharashtra?

The top five drugs if I recollect right are cocaine, LSD, mephadrone, hydroponic weed and charas.

A few months ago the southern film industry was rocked by a drug bust. It was expected that Bollywood too would come under focus, but nothing happened. Is Bollywood clean?

I don’t want to comment on any kind of profession or any one industry. It is a universal problem.

At the NCB we don’t target any industry or profession. We are here to only implement the NDPS Act. Whosoever violates Indian laws, we will take action against them.

Despite NCB’s best efforts novel party drugs, LSD, etc, are pouring into Mumbai. What is the point of origin for them?

There are many foreign countries which are the source of these drugs.

But we are ready to face them and daily we are booking cases against criminals involved in drugs trafficking in Maharashtra and Goa.

In Goa, we have cracked more than six cases, foreigners have been arrested, rave parties have been busted.

What would be your message to India’s youth on the occasion of International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking?

Stop doing drugs. Stop indulging into such kind of peddling, if you are doing it. Channelise your energy into nation building.

The nation needs you and nation building is a priority rather than wasting time in such kind of nefarious activities.

What programmes does the NCB undertake to dissuade youngsters from doing drugs?

We spread the word about ill-effects of drug consumption through media like yours, discuss the punishment awaiting those who undertake criminal activities, make use of radio to reach out to the youth who are now spending most of their time home due to the lockdown.

We are in touch with lot of NGOs for rehabilitation of consumers.

We exhort parents to talk to their young children about the ill-effects of drugs on their mental and psychological health and creating awareness.

For drug consumers, we have an approach of rehabilitating them rather booking them and punishing them.

Penal provisions are there for smugglers and peddlers, but for consumers who really require help, we help in rehabilitating them.

Lawfully, all the offences under the NDPS Act as per a judgement of the Bombay High Court are punishable and non-cognisable, non-bailable offences.

But after dealing with legal procedures, we would want the consumers to be rehabilitated and enter the mainstream. For that we are providing help through NGOs.

Feature Presentation: Rajesh Alva/Rediff.com

Source: Read Full Article