In April, Pydhonie resident Hussain Tayyeb noticed that his son Mubarak, 17, had started behaving strangely. Mubarak would break into a fight with his parents at the drop of a hat
In april this year, Hussain Tayyeb's (name changed) otherwise peaceful life suddenly came undone when his only son Mubarak (named withheld) started acting strangely. The first year senior college student, who used to be a well-behaved teen, would break into a fight with his parents at the drop of a hat and often lose his temper over petty issues. If this change wasn't disturbing enough, 17-year-old Mubarak's new set of friends with whom he spent most of his time, were also cause for concern. Had Tayyeb ignored his son's tantrums as the usual teen angst, he could have risked losing him. Because, unknown to the Tayyebs, Mubarak was addicted to mephedrone (meow meow), the cheaper alternative to cocaine. But, the concerned father wasn't one to take things lying down. Not only did he rescue his son from drug abuse, he also helped nab peddler Abdul Gani Abdul alias Papa Bakri – one of the cogs in the large wheel of Mumbai's drug mafia.
For Mumbai's Anti-Narcotics Cell (ANC), which has been devising newer ways of busting the widespread drug network, including creating an army of informants within the student community, awareness among parents, they feel, can play an important role in tackling the problem. "If parents take the issue seriously and become more vigilant towards their kids and at least observe their behaviour, it would be more than enough," said Shivdeep Lande, deputy commissioner of police, ANC.
In the past, several parents have joined hands with the investigating body to fight the drug syndicate. And to the ANC's surprise, the collaborative effort has met with a lot of success.
Tayyeb decided to keep tabs on his son's daily activities. After over a month, he finally spotted Mubarak buying drugs from a person in the Pydhonie-Dongri area
Parents turn investigators
Three months ago, when Tayyeb starting noticing behavioural changes in his son, he decided to keep tabs on his daily activities. Despite getting no leads, Tayyeb, a businessman based out of Pydhonie, remained persistent. After over a month, he finally spotted his son buying drugs from a person in the Pydhonie-Dongri area. In order to learn more about the peddler, Tayyeb started following him. He soon realised that his son wasn't the only victim, and that the man had been supplying drugs to several youngsters in the area, including Mubarak's friends. Instead of approaching the police first, Tayyeb decided to build a strong case against the peddler. He launched his own investigation by closely following his every move. In the process, he realised that the peddler operated from three specific locations in Pydhonie. He then collected all possible information on the drug peddler, including the days he would operate, and also the plate number of the two-wheeler he used to meet the youngsters and other peddlers to supply drugs. After fleshing out all the details, Hussain sent an anonymous letter with the details to Mumbai Commissioner of Police Datta Padsalgikar.
The CP immediately relayed the information to the ANC department, which is headed by DCP Lande. ANC officials then pressed their informants into action. By the third week of May, the Azad Maidan Unit managed to arrest Gani alias Papa Bakri, a Dongri resident, who was found with 55gm of meow meow. Later, investigations revealed that Gani was making as much as Rs 20,000 a day by supplying drug to his customers. Gani is suspected to be part of the infamous Pathan gang, which is currently working with underworld gangster Yusuf Chikna's drug cartel. When newspapers reported about Gani's arrest, Tayyeb approached the police and narrated how Gani had nearly destroyed his son's life. "The businessman had already carried out 90 per cent of the investigation. We used his information and arrested Gani. All credit goes to him," Lande said. Mubarak has now been weaned off his addiction, a police officer said.
He decided to launch his own investigation. After collecting information on the drug peddler, Tayyeb sent an anonymous letter to the Mumbai Commissioner of Police Datta Padsalgikar
Recently, an alert Walkeshwar resident, Anuradha Agarwal (name changed), also helped the ANC with information on two drug peddlers, after she found small plastic sheets – used to wrap small quantities of meow meow and cocaine – in her 16-year-old son's pockets. Instead of confronting him, she followed him to his college daily. When Agarwal was sure that he was consuming drugs, she decided to speak with him. Based on the information that her son provided, she got hold of the peddlers at the spot where they sold drugs. While the peddlers managed to escape from her clutches, Agarwal took her son to the ANC, so that he could help them trace the culprits. Similarly, Gayatri Chaurasiya (changed name) from Tardeo, also approached ANC officials in May after she had learnt that her 16-year-old son had started consuming meow meow.
In the last four months, at least seven other parents, including a builder and legal consultant, have approached the ANC, seeking help to save their children.
The CP relayed the information to the ANC. The investigating agency acted on the tip-off and arrested Abdul Gani Abdul alias Papa Bakri in May. Illustration/Uday Mohite
Teens easy targets
After investigating hundreds of drug trafficking cases and interrogating dozens of drug peddlers, the ANC has observed that kids fresh out of school, and college students are the most potential targets. Local peddlers usually lure them with weed. When they get addicted to it, they introduce them to stronger drugs. "To lure youth and get them addicted, peddlers first supply drugs for free. When the students get addicted and are unable to afford the drug, they use them to peddle the drugs and offer a regular drug supply in return," said senior inspector Santosh Bhalekar of Azad Maidan ANC unit.
ANC officials seen carrying out an awareness campaign in a city college
"I have seen college girls from good families get into the flesh trade in order to arrange money to buy drugs," says psychiatrist Dr Sagar Mundada.
DCP Lande says that while the police can cut the supply chain, they cannot control the demand. "Here, families and parents' social responsibility becomes important."
Shivdeep Lande, Deputy commissioner of police, ANC
According to Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla, senior psychiatrist at Masina Hospital, many parents are still reluctant to take their kids to de-addiction centres or the police.
"They try to hide the matter fearing social stigma. They don't realise that if their child is not treated on time, it will destroy their life," he said.
Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla, senior psychiatrist at Masina Hospital
Ramesh Sangale from NGO Miracle Foundation, which runs de-addiction centres in the city, agrees. "Most kids coming to our centres got into the habit because their families were negligent," he says.
The ANC is, however, hopeful that parents will help address the issue. Apart from the drug awareness seminars it has been organising in schools and colleges, it has also started conducting separate sessions with parents. In the first quarter of this year, the agency successfully weaned 27 youths off drugs. With more parents joining the fight, they hope the numbers will get better.
What parents should look out for
Change in physical appearance and mood fluctuation: A teen doing drugs tends to pay less importance towards his looks, clothes, cleanliness and appearance. Mood fluctuation is one of the most visible symptoms.
Enjoys being lonely: If a kid detaches himself/herself from family and friends and prefers being left alone, it could be a cause for worry.
Becomes less active: Drug consumption could cause a sudden lack of interest in sports or any other activity as they become more distractive.
Starts stealing, switching to crime: To procure drugs, addicts start borrowing money from friends, classmates etc. Sometimes, when desperate, they also steal. If parents notice that valuables items are vanishing from the house, they should keep an eye on their child.
Other important symptoms: Food intake reduces when doing drugs; vomiting regularly; face turns pale and erratic sleeping hours.
–With inputs by DCP Shivdeep Lande, Dr Sagar Mundada
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