Goa politicians condemn local police after major drug seizures by NCB

A day after a Mumbai-based Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) team swooped into Goa and arrested two Africans and an alleged drug dealer from Madhya Pradesh linked to a drug probe into the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, politicians in Goa targetted the state police for not doing enough to rein in drug trade on their own turf.

“Did the NCB team in Maharashtra dream that drugs were available in Goa before the raid? How did they know about it and the Goa Police did not? Police in Goa only arrest people with minor drug possession, sometimes even down to one gram. The NCB has tarred the image of the Goa Police by carrying out this big raid,” Sanjay Barde, general secretary of the Nationalist Congress Party in Goa said.

Two other Africans, from Nigeria and Congo, were arrested by NCB in a separate operation on Monday seizing a haul of 41 blots of LSD (commercial quantity), charas 28 grams, cocaine 22 grams, ganja 1.100 kgs, 160 grams of white powder and 500 grams blue crystals suspected to be psychotropic substance and an amount of Rs 10,000.

Both the accused were remanded to 14 days in judicial custody on Tuesday.

The NCB raid also resulted in the arrest of Hemant Sah alias Maharaja, a Madhya Pradesh resident who owned a beach shack at Morjim beach in North Goa and was allegedly in touch with drug dealers who have already been nabbed by the central government agency in connection with the Rajput death case. Sah was also found in possession of LSD and charas.

This is not the first instance where a central agency has carried out big seizures in Goa, which is infamous as a narco-tourism destination.

In a three-day operation code-named ‘Operation Vitamin’, the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence in 2018, busted an international drug syndicate, seizing 308 kg ketamine, two tons of raw material at various sites in Goa, Maharashtra and Gujarat, arresting 10 persons including two from UK and one from Vietnam.

Nearly 100 kgs ketamine and raw material used to manufacture the drug was also found at an industrial unit leased to former North Goa BJP district official Vasudev Parab. Parab had sub-leased his industrial plot to the main accused in the case.

In September last year, the NCB had also arrested a ‘mule’ in Goa, who served as a conduit carrying drugs between Mumbai and Goa.

Hridaynath Shirodkar of the Progressive Front of Goa said that if the NCB has the capability of conducting such raids in Goa, there was no reason why the Goa Police and its anti-narcotics cell could not do the same on their own turf, claiming political interference was holding the agency back.

“But the question which arises is, if the Maharashtra team of NCB can conduct such raids in Goa, why cannot the Goa government or the police or is it that Chief Minister Pramod Sawant wants to prove himself a failure again and again? Learn from the NCB, the Goa government needs to take such actions to ensure that Goa sheds the tag of drug capital of India,” Shirodkar said.

Goa’s Ports Minister and MLA from the tourist-hub of Calangute in North Goa Michael Lobo insisted that while the Goa government had a zero-tolerance policy towards drugs, the Goa Police needed to strengthen its specialist wings in order to crack down more severely on the drug trade.

“I feel that the Goa Police anti-narcotics cell has to be strengthened more along with the coastal police… We have to encourage our police officers and push them to stop the narcotics trade. Our fight against this drug mance will continue and we will see that Goa becomes a drug-free destination,” Lobo said.

According to statistics tabled during the recently concluded winter session of the state legislative assembly, from 2018-2020, 589 drug-related cases were booked in Goa spread over 1095 days. And the narcotic flavour of the season, predictably turns out to be ganja or grass or marijuana, one of the cheapest banned drugs which has accounted for 71.30 per cent of the total drug busts.