TEM­PLE OF DOOM

Tiru­pati emerges as the hub for drug traf­fick­ing to Ban­ga­lore and Chen­nai

India Today - - NATION - By Amar­nath K. Menon

The seizure of 800 gram of co­caine on Oc­to­ber 19 from two en­gi­neer­ing stu­dents in Tiru­pati re­veals that the tem­ple town has be­come a new hub for psy­chotropic drugs. At the min­i­mum re­tail price of Rs 4,000 per gram, the haul is es­ti­mated to be worth at least Rs 32 lakh in the grey mar­ket. Madhu Ku­mar, a dropout from the Satya Sai In­sti­tute of En­gi­neer­ing, Anan­ta­pur, and Pradeep Ku­mar, a third-year stu­dent at the An­na­macharya En­gi­neer­ing Col­lege, Ra­jam­pet, were caught try­ing to strike a deal with a de­coy.

Po­lice said the duo was not into sub­stance abuse them­selves but in­ter­ested in mak­ing a quick buck. They had sourced the co­caine from a Hy­der­abad sup­plier and tried to sell it in bulk to an­other ped­dler in Chen­nai who re­jected it sus­pect­ing it to be of low grade. The duo then planned to sell their co­caine stash in small pouches. They have been charged un­der the Nar­cotic Drugs and Psy­chotropic Sub­stances Act ( NDPSA).

The po­lice are now on the look­out for the sup­plier, who is among those who ped­dle psy­chotropic sub­stances to film stars in Tol­ly­wood as well as stu­dents in Hy­der­abad.

The seizure is sig­nif­i­cant as it points to ped­dlers find­ing a safer hub in Tiru­pati, af­ter po­lice turned on the heat in Hy­der­abad. “There have been some break­throughs and ar­rests of Nige­rian ped­dlers and their agents in the past one year be­cause the city’s West Zone po­lice are alert and ac­tive to the is­sue of drug abuse,” says K. Satya­narayana, SP, Anti-nar­cotics Cell, Andhra Pradesh. Barely four days af­ter the Tiru­pati catch, two Nige­rian ped­dlers op­er­at­ing un­der the cover of do­ing other busi­nesses in Mum­bai and Hy­der­abad were caught by the West Zone po­lice with eight grams of co­caine.

In the ab­sence of a reg­u­lar mon­i­tor­ing and track­ing mech­a­nism, it is the ef­forts of Stephen Ravin­dra, DCP, West Zone, Hy­der­abad, that led to de­tec­tion, seizure and ex­pose of drug abuse in the Tel­ugu film in­dus­try and among stu­dents. “Only con­tin­u­ous vigil and a grow­ing band of de­pend­able in­for­mants can help check the drug men­ace,” says Ravin­dra.

“Ours is a chance catch and the largest haul so far. There have been gangs sell­ing ganja to sad­hus and stu­dents in the past but co­caine has come to our no­tice for the first time,” says Tiru­pati Ur­ban SP J. Prab­hakar Rao. Sad­hus are sel­dom booked even though con­sump­tion of ganja is also a vi­o­la­tion of the NDPSA. Some of them are sus­pect con­duits for drugs

THE SEIZURE IS SIG­NIF­I­CANT AS IT POINTS TO PED­DLERS FIND­ING A SAFER HUB IN TIRU­PATI, AF­TER PO­LICE TURNED ON THE HEAT IN HY­DER­ABAD.

but are never probed by po­lice.

Po­lice sources point out that Tiru­pati is a flour­ish­ing mar­ket as ad­dicts and ca­sual con­sumers can merge seam­lessly with the large float­ing pop­u­la­tion of pil­grims. Ped­dlers are look­ing to make the tem­ple town, which at­tracts more do­mes­tic tourists than any other desti­na­tion in the coun­try, the hub for drug traf­fick­ing as it is close to south­ern met­ros Ban­ga­lore and Chen­nai.

Po­lice in Andhra Pradesh are poorly equipped to tackle NDPSA vi­o­la­tions and en­force nar­cotics con­trol. They have scanty in­for­ma­tion and, usu­ally, act on a tip-off like in the Tiru­pati case. The state-level An­tiNar­cotics Cell, founded in 1999, has just five mem­bers: an SP, a DSP, an in­spec­tor, a head con­sta­ble and a con­sta­ble. It is de­pen­dent on lo­cal po­lice for tip-offs. On their part, the lo­cal po­lice act only if they have spe­cific in­for­ma­tion and strong prospects of gath­er­ing clinch­ing ev­i­dence.

PO­LICE WITH THE CO­CAINE SEIZED FROM TWO YOUNG­STERS IN TIRU­PATI

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