‘Staff shortage hindering efficiency in dealing with narcotics’

The death of an 18-year-old girl, who hanged herself in her house at Padavinangadi on Sunday, has sent shock waves in the city. Though it would be too simplistic to term the death of the first PU student as due to prolonged narcotic withdrawal – with senior police officials pointing to a mental state bordering on depression as the reason for addiction – protests and discussions have been initiated on the issue of drug usage among students.

Most debate narrow in on the laxity of the police, in detection, crackdown and arrests in drug-related cases.

Two wings of the Police Department deal with narcotics here: the city police and the specialised Narcotics Drugs Cell (NDC) which comes under CID. Though both wings agree that drug usage is widespread, arrests made or raids conducted do not reflect this. For example, last year, the city police registered only nine cases under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1985 Act that deals with drug possession, usage and distribution; while 34 cases were registered the year before.

NDC, which handles cases in a jurisdiction that stretches from Udupi to Hassan, has not had a major bust in the district for over two years, said officials. “We target narcotics wholesalers. As the majority of ganja comes from Shimoga, Sagar, Andhra Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, Mangalore becomes only a point of sale. So most of our raids happen in those districts,” he said.

Explaining the low rate of raids, the city police officials said because of the complexity of the network of supply, tracing the source was difficult. “In most of the cases, the link disappears in Kerala. Many suppliers here seem to be getting it across the State border for distribution here,” said an official.

What must be noted that a majority of the arrests involve possession or sale of cannibis (ganja) or marijuana, which though widely consumed is considered less addictive and less damaging (according to the ranking system of the American Psychiatrists’ Association) than harder drugs of brown sugar, heroin, cocaine and others.

And in the case of the PU girl, it was injectible drugs that she was addicted to.

For the NDC, the last raid on hard drugs in October 2008 when two kg of brown sugar was seized at Talapady (the biggest raid in the city was a whole year before when 510 gm of heroin worth Rs. 50.33 lakh was seized in Padua in the city), said an official; similarly, it has been over two years since hard drugs have been seized by the city police.

Both the NDC and the city police cite staff shortage as hindering efficiency in dealing with narcotics. An NDC official said of the 10 posts in the cell, only three had been filled. “There are no clerical staff. Of the four posts of head constable, only one has been filled. Posts of sub-inspector and constable post are vacant. Recently, in a raid at Arsikere, the entire cell had to close office and go there,” said an official. For the city police, Commissioner Manish Karbikar said there was a need for dedicated manpower to tackle the “drug menace”. “Apart from IPC cases and law and order duties, the department, which suffers from shortage of staff, has to check for drugs. Specialised teams should be formed for this,” he said.

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