Police apathy and a slackening of vigilance means that the drug peddlers have sneaked back into the streets to pick up their trade just where they had left off decades ago.
Back in the day, metros like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai had a high concentration of Nigerian nationals who supplied drugs to pubs, discos and five-star hotels. They forayed into these cities on student and tour visas, never to return.
Till the late 90s, streets of Mumbai — especially areas like Ballard Peir, Azad Maidan and Oval Maidan — would always be teeming with these migrants. To steer clear of the long arm of the law, they married Indians and had kids to create an illusion of wholesome domesticity, even as they continued with their drug peddling on the side. Every police station in south Mumbai had cases of narcotics piling up against these migrants.
The junkies hit headlines after they began mugging office goers at Azad Maidan and Oval Maidan to pay for their daily drug fix. Special police drives soon forced these drug peddlers to go underground. Droves of them shifted out of the city proper and moved to distant suburbs of Mira Road, Nallasopara, Vasai, Virar and Navi Mumbai. Operating from the outskirts, some of them ran online lottery scams.
Till date, hundreds of Nigerians have been put behind bars under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act and the Indian Foreigners Act, but paucity of funds to process their deportation allows them to return to their safe havens. Talks with the Union Government to allot more funds are stuck in the inevitable red-tape. An effective deportation process with accompanying funds is the need of the hour to keep the cocaine off the streets.