In the poll-bound Goa, notorious Colombian king of cocaine ‘Pablo Escobar’ has suddenly become a talking point in the coastal state’s politics (and crime). In Goa’s highly chirpy pre-election chatter, the most recent reference to Escobar.
Former Water Resources Minister and sitting opposition MLA Vinod Palienkar late on Wednesday claimed that one ‘Pablo Escobar’ was running an extensive drug network in Goa, especially his coastal constituency of Siolim, and added that if he named the brain behind the narcotic mafia, he would be killed the next day.
Palienkar wasn’t of course speaking about the architect of the Medellin cartel, who was gunned down in 1993, but using the name that once inspired the fear of death in Columbia as a familiar alias for a powerful mastermind of drug trade in Goa, especially north Goa.
“Drug trade is flourishing. If I speak about the person who is openly handling this, I will be killed tomorrow. I am not scared of death. The man who is referred to as Pablo Escobar is running all this racket. I have informed the Chief Minister about the activities of this Pablo Escobar in detail in writing. The CM has to decide on this,” Palienkar told reporters in his constituency of Siolim, which includes popular beach villages like Anjuna, Vagator and Chapora, which are also known as drug havens.
“There are many Pablo Escobars, you find them everywhere. But the time has come to crush the main Pablo Escobar and I hope the CM will act on this soon,” Palienkar also said.
Palienkar’s outburst against the mysterious and unnamed mastermind of Goa’s drug mafia, is not the first reference to ‘Pablo Escobar’ made by Goa’s politicians while referring to a narcotics mafia kingpin.
In August last year, the ruling BJP also alleged the presence of a ‘Pablo Escobar’ following the arrest of Bollywood actor Kapil Jhaveri, who was arrested after a rave party bust in Anjuna.
“Like the police established the phone trail while investigating the Sushant Singh Rajput case, by tracking Rhea Chakrabarthy’s phone, police should also track down Kapil Jhaveri’s call records and put the details in the public domain. People of Goa need to know which corrupt politicians Jhaveri was in touch with,” BJP spokesperson Dattaprasad Naik told a press conference at the BJP’s state headquarters on August 19.
On November 17 this year, Goa Congress spokesperson Agnelo Fernandes, during a press conference demanded a probe into drug trade in the state hinting that a government minister was actually fuelling drug trade in Goa, the ‘Pablo Escobar’.
The ‘Pablo Escobar’ metaphor was also used by the Congress party in January this year, while the state government was toying with the idea of allowing legal cultivation of marijuana in the state.
“Goa’s Ministers will turn into ‘Pablo Escobars’ if legal farming of marijuana is allowed in the state. Some ministers have a vested interest in this and they are running the state and taking these decisions on behalf of the drug lobby,” state Youth Congress president Varad Mardolkar had said.
While Goa is considered as one of the top beach and nightlife destinations in the country, the coastal state is also notorious for being a drug haven, where narcotics are easily available.
According to official records, police teams conduct one narcotics seizure every alternate day.
From 2018-2020, 589 drug-related cases were filed in Goa spread over 1,095 days. Ganja or grass or marijuana, one of the cheapest banned drugs accounted for 71.30 per cent of the total drug busts.