Tuesday 26 Sep 2023

War against drugs, and rave parties allowed till 5 am


The latest case of drug overdose has once again exposed the hollowness of the State's claims of war against drugs. A young female tourist who is on holiday to Goa with her male friend landed at a private hospital at Dona Paula after attending a rave party at Vagator on November 19. The party, which went on till 5 am the next day, happened a few metres away from a venue where police officials were giving a farewell to their 'just transferred' boss.

The girl was shifted to the Primary Health Centre and later moved to Goa Medical College Hospital, Bambolim, after she showed signs of uneasiness. Her health deteriorated, and she was later shifted to a private hospital where she continues to be on a ventilator battling for life.

We often hear statements from ministers and other officials about "an all-out war on drugs". Tourism Minister Rohan Khaunte stated that his government had taken a clear stand against drugs. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has very often declared "war on drugs", saying that there would be zero tolerance towards drugs and promised to eliminate the narcotics trade in the State within three months. There was a flurry of raids, campaigns and anti-drug drives.

Unfortunately, a sudden flare-up against drugs happens the moment tragedy strikes. We saw that after BJP leader and TV actress Sonali Phogat died of a suspected drug overdose. Back in 2008, when Scarlett Keeling was found dead on the beach after a drug overdose, the police went on a wild hunt for drug sellers. The recent Vagator case once again shifts the spotlight to the thriving drug trade.

The question is: Why the bluff of the "war on drugs" when the reality is that narcotics are so deeply rooted? Is this war won by the demolition of Curlies and some few seizures?

The prime question here is how are rave parties allowed to violate regulations, and why are these joints, which hold notoriety for drugs, not under the police scanner? The party which this tourist girl attended went up to 5 am. How can that be allowed? The District Collector, North, recently received a confidential email listing names of all party outlets that play loud music and violate timings. Why has no action been taken against them?

Undoubtedly, there has been a tangible shift in the understanding of drugs from the state of denial the government was in. The downside is we now have a false sense of accomplishment. Despite all the actions initiated and threats doled out, the flow of drugs has never ceased. On the contrary, Goa's tourism has become synonymous with narcotics, which is why vast sections of tourists descend into the State, skipping other enticing destinations.

Public memory is short, but that of ministers is shorter. The promises made after Phogat's death appear to have been forgotten. The war is no longer raging. However, every time there is a case of a drug overdose, or when there is a drug-related death, it will bring forth the mockery that is being made of fighting drugs in Goa.

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