Panaji, May 7:
Top cop T.N. Mohan’s blanket denial of a “drug mafia” operating in Goa is snowballing into a major controversy in the beach state that has earned a bad name as a “narco-tourism destination”.
While a legislator of the ruling BJP has lamented that the statement of the director general of police (DGP) will only “embolden drug mafias” operating in Goa, voices on the social media have also come out strongly against Mohan’s denial of a well-oiled narcotics network in the coastal state.
“How can the DGP say there is no mafia? There was a murder outside my house because of a fight between the Nigerian mafia and local drug mafia. Do the police not remember how Nigerians in retaliation blocked a highway by dumping a body on it and how they beat up policemen there,” asked Michael Lobo, who represents the Calangute constituency, known for its beaches as well as its narcotics-laced nightlife.
On Friday, Mohan, the newly-appointed DGP, had underplayed the significance of narcotics control as a top-of-the-mind policing issue.
“There are drugs in Goa… It is still my opinion that Goa is not Mexico. Goa does not have a mafia or a lawlessness which is there is those places,” Mohan said, adding that the presence of drugs in Goa was “nominal”.
His comments raised eyebrows, especially because the police-politician-drug mafia nexus has been one of the most debated subjects, other than the Rs.35,000 crore illegal mining scam.
The assembly has seen Congress as well as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members accusing each other of sheltering drug mafias, both domestic and foreign.
The assembly was, in fact, adjourned several times in July 2010 after a legislative committee report probing the nexus had indicted former home minister Ravi Naik and his son Roy for their links to the Israeli drug mafia operating in Goa. The same report had also indicted Mohan’s predecessor, Kishen Kumar, of being the “kingpin” as far as providing police protection to the drug mafia is concerned.
Nearly a dozen police officers, including more than three-fourths of Goa Police’s elite anti-narcotics cell (ANC) had been arrested for their links to Israeli drug dealers in Goa.
That several kilograms of drugs like charas and ganja had disappeared from the police godown has also contributed to the police-drug mafia nexus theory, with a section of police officers claiming that the seized drugs were sold back into the narcotics market by the ANC officers. That the police officially blamed the disappearance of drugs to hungry termites is testimony to the brazen defence offered by the ANC.
The narcotics trade in Goa is fuelled by a significant chunk of students and young working professionals travelling to the state for weekends, live music dos and raves and a section of foreign tourists, for whom Goa is a relatively cheap destination for liquor and drugs.
If hotel staffers do not help you get a fix, drug peddlers seek you out in coastal beach shacks as well as popular nightlife hot spots like Baga or Calangute if you sport a “touristy” look.
“Nigerian dealers will walk right up to you and offer to sell cocaine or other drugs in some places in Calangute,” Lobo claimed.
But perhaps the most telling caution came four years back from Lobo’s predecessor, former Calangute legislator Agnelo Fernandes of the Congress, who had repeatedly criticized his government’s handling of the drug mafia.
“If you don’t control the drug trade in the state now, then they will be ruling over us soon. They will shoot the chief minister and home minister and we will not have any control over them,” Fernandes claimed in 2010. Like Lobo, Fernandes too runs hospitality ventures in the Calangute constituency.
Mohan’s comments have also piqued the Congress party, which has called the DGP a “spokesperson of the drug mafia” and wants him recalled.
“It is unfortunate that the DGP is behaving like a spokesperson of he drug mafia in Goa. We condemn his statement. It is a slap on the face of those police officers and people who are fighting against the drug mafia in Goa,” Congress spokesperson Sunil Kawthankar said Monday.
In the print as well as social media, the DGP’s comment has attracted criticism. And sarcastic voices like those of netizen J.R. Rodrigues are common, especially on Facebook.
“They are waiting for it (for Goa to turn into Mexico) to happen,” Rodrigues said on Goa Speaks, a popular forum which discusses state-related issues on Facebook.