Anyone missing a bicycle that they had parked near any of the railway stations in the city should know that their favourite mode of transport may have served to get a drug addict high on brown sugar for a while. Sleuths of the Anti-Narcotic Cell (ANC) have stumbled upon a bizarre mode of payment accepted by a drug peddler they have been trying desperately to nab for a while now.
While on the trail of Ali Sher Lal Mohammad Saudagar (45), who operates a drug-peddling syndicate in the infamous Patil Estate in Wakdewadi area of the city, the ANC sleuths learnt from a drug addict they detained that Saudagar regularly gave him a sachet of Brown Sugar in exchange for every bicycle he managed to steal from around railway stations whenever the urge for a fix arose. The sad part is that a single sachet of contraband, better known as a ‘pudi’ in the drug circle, costs between Rs 120 and Rs 150, while a bicycle can cost a few thousand rupees.
While questioning the arrested addict, the ANC sleuths learnt that Saudagar cultivated a habit in casual drug users by first giving them sachets for free initially. Once they were hooked, Saudagar would demand cash or encourage them to steal bicycles in exchange for brown sugar. The detained addict told the sleuths that he used to steal bicycles from crowded areas like Shivajinagar and Pune railway station.
“We received information that Saudagar had stacked over 300 bicycles in a shed near Patil Estate. While conducting a raid of the place, we were shocked to see numerous cycles lying inside in a dismantled condition,” informed Assistant Police Inspector, Vinod Patil of the ANC. He added that they counted around 500 cycle tires and tubes, car tyres and tubes, and other metal parts inside the shed.
“The arrested drug addict told us that some men, who peddle drugs for Saudagar at Patil Estate, had given him sachets free of charge two or three times. When he approached them thereafter, they said he could exchange a cycle, if he had one, for a sachet. When informed that he did not own one, the men suggested that the addict steal one from Shivajinagar railway station, which is next to Patil Estate area,” Patil said. According to the information given to the sleuths, cycles were dismantled as soon as they were brought in and sold off as scrap metal shortly after. Other parts like tyres, tubes, seats and miscellaneous accessories could be resold as second-hand goods.
“The cost for one pudi is around Rs 120 to 150. These addicts often do not have money to feed their addiction, and Saudagar used their urges to get them to steal,” Patil said. “So far, we have arrested over 15 persons working under Saudagar and booked them in various cases of drug peddling and smuggling. However, our main target is Saudagar, who constantly changes his location and gives our team the slip. We have circulated pictures of the accused across districts and the police have been alerted to keep an eye out for him.”
Saudagar hails from Usmanabad district, but has been operating in the Patil Estate area for several years now. He has the distinction of being the main supplier of brown sugar, charas, ganja and other contraband. A police officer said that children between the age of five and 10 have been used as carriers for the kingpin. “Residents of the area are afraid to raise their voices against Saudagar and do not cooperate with us when questioned about his whereabouts,” said the officer. Several cases of smuggling contraband and other cases have been registered against Saudagar with Khadaki, Shivajinagar, Yerawada and Vishrantwadi police stations in the city.