With increasing illegal activities, Dhoolpet had become the favourite scoring spot for most ganja users in the city.

Stigma of an address Hyds Dhoolpet is a vicious circle of unemployment and crime
news Crime Wednesday, July 25, 2018 - 13:39

When Alok Singh* got an entry level job with an IT company, he was asked to produce a character certificate from the local police station. “I later got to know that I alone was asked to produce the certificate – because I reside at Dhoolpet,” says the 26-year-old who is now employed with the firm.

Do a quick Google search for Dhoolpet and you will find that the locality is famous for three things historically – idol making, distilling gudumba (illicit liquor) and ganja peddling. Graduates from Dhoolpet who are seeking jobs say there is a social stigma attached to them for being residents of the locality.

“The company wanted to be sure that there were no drug peddling cases against me. I got a character certificate from the Mangalhat police station,” says Alok, who found the whole incident embarrassing. “People judge me when I say am from Dhoolpet… during college days some would ask me if I could supply ganja or if I have any contacts with peddlers,” the youth laughs.

Alok’s younger brother, Pradeep Singh*, who got a job with a hotel in Falaknuma in July, was also asked to get a character certificate.

A character certificate is not a must while applying for a job, however, an employer may ask for one if they are unsure about the conduct of the potential hire.

“Every month we get a few youths coming in applying for a character certificate. One month this year, we got 25 youths from Dhoolpet applying for the certificates. When we asked them why they needed it, they all said it’s for job applications,” says a police official from Mangalhat police station. “Most of them were struggling to get jobs as they are from Dhoolpet. There is a stigma attached to the locality,” the official adds.

While many youths hunt for jobs outside Dhoolpet, many others find it difficult to make ends meet, often pushing them and the women in their family into the ganja business. Police have identified as many as eight women who have previously indulged in the trade, some of whom are currently behind bars.

The women of Dhoolpet

Reshma* is the first woman in her family to attend college and hopes to get married soon, but only after her brother and mother are released from jail. Getting a marriage alliance was not easy, recalls Reshma.

“It was difficult to find a marriage alliance for me from anywhere outside Dhoolpet. I am now engaged to someone who is known to my family. My fiancé is also a ganja peddler,” says the 22-year-old. “The men procure the ganja, the women sell it and manage finances. Handling money gives us some say in household matters. Ours is a deeply conservative community,” she explains.

Adjacent to Reshma’s house is an idol-making unit owned and operated by her family annually during the festival season. Every street of Dhoolpet sports at least one idol making unit that is active for a few months before Ganesh Chaturthi and Durga Puja but lays dormant during the other parts of the year.

“Selling idols used to be lucrative, but last year the business was very dull. The making charges for idols went up but we could not hike the price as there was stiff competition. Had we hiked the price the buyers would have just gone to another seller,” says Kiran Singh*, an artisan at Vivek Enterprises in Dhoolpet.

When Kiran is out of work after the festival season gets over, he too takes to peddling drug. “I am not educated and who will employ an idol maker? People from our caste make idols, it’s beneath us to go work as a servant or as a daily wage labourer,” he adds.

With increasing illegal activities, Dhoolpet had become the favourite scoring spot for most ganja users in the city. As the infamy of the locality grew, so did the police crackdown in the past two years. While the police seized just 274.8 kg of ganja in 2015, by the end of 2017 they had seized 914.7 kg of ganja.

The cops are watching

At every entrance to Dhoolpet, the city police have set up cameras and keep a close watch on the comings and goings of both peddlers and customers. The Mangalhat Police alone has set up over 128 cameras in the locality that is monitored from the station. Additional camera with better picture quality has also been set up, monitored from the control room of the Hyderabad Police Commissionerate.

Apart from using cameras, the police have also geo-tagged the houses of known criminals. Reshma is aware of this.

“I know that our house is under watch… guests who leave the house often get picked up for questioning by police lurking in plain clothes. Nowadays we recognise them easily as they are too well-dressed for these streets,” she adds.

The police crackdown has forced peddlers to move their ganja sales out of Dhoolpet. The dealers now deliver the contraband either directly to the customer’s home or at a mutually agreed location. However, police are aware of this and in the last 20 days alone have nabbed 10 persons for ganja possession.

“We trapped them trough decoy operations. Those who used to visit Dhoolpet are now afraid to come here to buy ganja,” says N Anji Reddy, Assistant Excise Superintendent, Hyderabad.

Another senior police official who had cracked down on the ganja trade in the Andhra-Odisha border says, “At the time when gudumba was banned, the punishment for distilling it was just a fine and imprisonment for two months… this was a weak punishment. To step up the crackdown, police started booking cases under the Preventive Detention Act, 1950 under which offenders can be put in jail for up to a year.”

Booking gudumba sellers and imprisoning them had some unintended consequences in Dhoolpet, according to the official. “It has to do with how we treat our criminals.”

He was referring to how minor and first-time offenders make contacts in jails and eventually indulge in bigger crimes. Observing the trend, the officer further adds that people have stepped up from gudumba to ganja.

“It’s not as if there were no ganja sales in Dhoolpet before, but when the crackdown on gudumba intensified the brewing declined and the ganja peddling increased,” he explains.

“Almost 1.5 years ago, 1,500 persons were involved in the sales of gudumba. We did a crackdown and now that trade has dropped by 99%. On the other hand, in the last two months alone we have caught over 40 people and seized over 100 kg of ganja,” says Reddy, adding, “They are addicted to the business, a majority are uneducated and don’t realise this is not the right way to make a living.”

“Even when it comes to seeking marriage alliances, some families only accept grooms who have a few criminal cases against them. It’s really strange and very unique to Dhoolpet,” Reddy adds.

*Names changed