‘Ghost’ drug mafia haunts Ramban
The Drug addiction among youth has assumed alarming proportions in some areas of the hilly Ramban district in Chenab Valley. While the authorities urge parents to counsel their children, the locals seek stern action against the `ghost mafia'.
Across Ramban, hundreds of youth including minors have fallen prey to this menace. Minors in the age group of 13- 16 have also taken to drugs in the area, concerned locals told Greater Kashmir.
The menace, locals said has already spread its deadly tentacles to Gool town which is around 55 kilometers from Ramban district headquarters. Youngsters could be seen taking drugs on the roadside even in broad day light.
For the past one year, 17- year- old Showkat (name changed), a 11th grade student has been smoking cannabis with his friends, all in their teens while wandering in the lush green forests in the area. Showkat is a frail boy with fuzzy beard, eye sockets blackened by one year of inhaling cannabis.
His was fascinated on seeing his friends taking cannabis in cheap cigarettes. "They told me it was adventurous. I was taken in and started smoking it with them, behind the bushes," he said.
A doctor posted in the local hospital, wishing anonymity said that maximum number of youngsters initially use these drugs for fun, while as some use it to cope up with a problem and later they became addicts. "These people use all kind of drugs from Charas, Ganja, Poppy straw and sedative drugs," he said, adding, even cough syrups, fluid, boot polish, cigarettes and Gutkha are taken.
A 'ghost mafia' is running this illicit trade to make quick fortunes and it has come to the fore that there is a peddler- addict nexus in the area.
And to avoid public glare, sometimes boys are used to carry on this illicit trade. "This nexus seems difficult to track down and is engulfing thousands of young men here."
Apart from locally produced Charas, they manage huge quantity of drugs from other areas through regular vehicles to the 'fixers', who then sell them in the target market here.
"These 'ghosts' have discovered the hidden, profitable market in the area, and are selling drugs to the youth," locals said.
A local identifying himself as Mustafa said that drug abuse is increasing among youth at a fast pace. "Many families in the area have made it full time business and they have even involved their children in it. Many among them have become addicts-cum-peddlers," he said.
Drug abuse is evenly spreading in far off habitations in the area and the government as well as society brushes the problem under the carpet. "This is a major problem and we don't know why government and local administration is waiting for a major disaster," Bashir Ahmad, a local said, adding, more than 80 percent students here are involved into it.
Ahmad said most of the addicts use easily available prescription drugs and substances like alcohol based cough syrup, painkillers, eraser fluid, nail polish and even shoe polish.
The rest are alcoholics or use locally grown cannabis mixed with tobacco.
Concerned over the increasing drug menace, last month a local cleric of Jamia Masjid, Gool appealed the people to spread awareness about the harmful effects of drug addiction," locals said.
"I think, schools and responsible citizens here have to launch a awareness campaign to arrest the menace," another local Zahid Bashir said.
A senior official, wishing anonymity elaborated the modus operandi of drug racketeers and their network which spreads across political parties, police and other forces itself.
These 'fixers' sell drugs to some shopkeepers run by locals who know their trusted customers, drivers, consumers, and others. This way the drugs are supplied to entire area, he said.
"This dangerous trend and need to be curbed, so that drug addiction does not thrive here, or else we will see drug patients in every home after few years," he warned.
A top police officer posted in the district said that police has recently arrested one person from Sumber area and seized 57 pouches of Indian Made Foreign Liquor from him. "On a specific information, Pritvi Singh son of Sham Singh of village Batroo Magarkote was caught," he said, adding, there might be the chain of people involved into this illicit trade and police has started the investigation. "Anuroop Sharma Station House Officer (SHO) Dhramkund had made this arrest and a case FIR number 36 under section 48-A excise act has been registered against him," he said.
Sub District Magistrate (SDM) Gool, Zameer Ahmad admitted that there is alarming increase in drug addiction in the area, but puts the primary responsibility on parents to counsel their children. "Drug abuse can be curbed with the help of parents, police and social organizations by taking up preventive measures and sometimes strong action to put an end to it," he said, adding, unemployment, frustration and easy access the drugs are the reasons for consuming these drugs by the youth or school going children.