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