The arrest of four people in Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh earlier this week has turned the scanner of the police and the state’s Excise Department on hard drugs that are slowly finding their way into the coastal city. Police say that unemployed youth in their early and late 20s who are addicted to hard drugs like Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA), more commonly known as Ecstasy, are turning peddlers to fund their addiction and make a quick buck.
Earlier this week, officials said that they received a tip-off that drugs were being sold at a party at Rushikonda Beach. The managers of the event had taken due permissions to serve alcohol, publicised the event on social media and taken Rs 500 as entry fee. However, upon raiding the premises on Tuesday night, officials realised that it was a rave party and caught a group of youngsters in possession of two blots of LSD and 1 gram of MDMA.
Upon further investigation, police nabbed four people aged between 26 and 29, with one gram of cocaine, nine grams of MDMA and five blots of LSD. Officials suspect that at least 40 youth, who frequently attend rave parties, could be involved in peddling small quantities of the drugs. This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg.
Speaking to TNM, Assistant Commissioner of Police, City Task Force, Mahendra Mathe says, “The target is generally youth from affluent families or techies who can afford the drugs, who frequent such rave parties with DJs during weekends.”
A barter system?
While officials insist that unlike in cities like Hyderabad or Bengaluru, the hard drug scene in Visakhapatnam is still in its nascent stages, they do not deny that it could potentially be a large market for users and peddlers.
The Agency area of Visakhapatnam and Vizianagaram district is known for large-scale ganja cultivation, as farmers cultivate high-quality ganja in the interior areas, especially among the Eastern Ghats along the Andhra-Odisha border. The Sheelavathi variety of the crop is most commonly grown here and has many takers in cities like Hyderabad, Vijayawada and even as far as Bengaluru. This is exactly what officials suspect the peddlers are taking advantage of.
“The ongoing rate for a kilo of ganja in the Agency area like Araku Valley is around Rs 2,000. By the time it comes to Visakhapatnam city, it goes up to Rs 4,000, and once it crosses the state border, the rate shoots up drastically. In Bengaluru, a kilo can be sold for anywhere between Rs 8,000 and Rs 10,000,” ACP Mahendra Mathe explains.
Officials suspect that unemployed youth travel from the Agency area and transport between 2 and 5 kg of ganja to Bengaluru, where they either exchange it for harder drugs, or simply sell the ganja and use the money to buy LSD, MDMA and cocaine. In Hyderabad, a blot of LSD can cost between Rs 1,500 and Rs 3,000 depending on the dosage on the stamp paper, while in Bengaluru it can range from Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,000.
A Bengaluru-based source in the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) also confirmed the same, stating that a kg of ganja from Araku valley could 'easily' be sold for over Rs 10,000.
The drugs seized in Visakhapatnam
“LSD and MDMA are available at a lower price in Bengaluru when compared to Visakhapatnam and selling 5 kg of ganja can get them around Rs 50,000, which they can in turn use to sustain their habit while also selling the remaining to their friends and acquaintances. This way, they get trapped in the vicious cycle,” Mathe says.
Officials also say that some travel as far as Goa for this exchange.
“If the peddlers don’t travel themselves, they may even get the drugs via a carrier who could be their acquaintance, and most likely a user themselves,” he adds.
Police also say that in all the arrests made in the case so far, the accused were first users, who consume the drugs for a year or two before they turned dealers.
Though the police are yet to crack the nexus and ascertain how deep-rooted the issue is, they insist that the trade is still in its nascent stages.
“It is prevalent but it is still not that big. We are lucky to have caught it in the early stages itself. Once we get a clear picture of how the peddling works, we will be able to take some action and also organise awareness campaigns to ensure that no untoward incidents occur in the future,” Mathe says.
The accused have been booked under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 and sent to judicial remand.