Illustration/ Uday Mohite
In the last 24 hours, eight peddlers supplying drugs to colleges were rounded up from across the city. And, if the Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC) officers are to be believed, it's their newest recruits, who played a pivotal role in these drug busts. Around thousand students from over 50 schools and colleges are masquerading as police informers within their campuses.
The string of successes that the ANC has had with nabbing the peddlers only reflects the efficiency of this young team. In April, during a sting operation, mid-day had exposed how illicit drugs were being openly sold in suburban colleges. Following the sting, ANC upped its ante and also arrested a peddler outside one of the city colleges.
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Starting June 26, ANC has been carrying out awareness campaigns across schools and colleges. As part of the awareness session, officials show students video clippings and photos related to the side-effects of consuming narcotics. "We also inform them about the kind of work we do and suggest how they can save lives of others, all while hiding their identity," said an officer with the ANC.
"After the session, we also provide them our info line, 9819111222, where they can share information related to peddling of drugs in their schools and college premises," the officer added.
According to Shivdeep Lande, deputy commissioner of police, ANC, during the drive, Mumbai Police Commissioner Dattatray Padsalgikar had ordered the police to take students into confidence. "During our interactions with them, several students revealed the whereabouts of peddlers. They also directed us to the places from where the peddlers operate," Lande said. Based on the information, ANC laid traps at these places and succeeded in nabbing drug peddlers. One of the students, who tipped off the police, said he decided to help the police after he saw one of his friends destroy his life due to his addiction. "I knew the spot where he and other students got their drugs from ," he added.
This is not first time that the police have roped in youngsters. In December 2014, mid-day had reported how the Navi Mumbai police used college students to crack down on rampant drug use on New Year's Eve.
Yesterday, the ANC's Kandivli Unit arrested four people and seized 1 kg of ganja (marijuana), while the cell's Ghatkopar unit arrested an accused with 800 gm of ganja. The ANC's Worli unit nabbed a woman drug peddler, Shahnaj Abdul Karim Sheikh, who sells drugs to colleges in Matunga. As the trend reveals, cannabis is the most preferred drug among students, an ANC official said. "This drug has replaced heroin and meow meow [mephedrone] because the former is cheaper," the officer added. Currently, a 10 gm sachet sells for Rs 300 approx.
The number of students prone to substance abuse has also increased in the city. Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla, a senior psychiatrist, Masina Hospital, said that the number of students, who come in for rehab has gone up by 30 to 40 per cent. "Students as young as 13 are getting addicted," he said.
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