Abuse of narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances is going up alarmingly along with the increased sale of illegal liquor and even stimulating ayurvedic tonics, known as arishtam, after closure of 712 liquor bars below five-star category in Kerala April, this year.
Kerala is facing a major challenge as liquor-addicts are exploring new ways to set off the reduced availability of liquor due to the closure of bars and 52 retail liquor outlets, said Kerala Excise Minister K Babu.
"I won't say the new liquor policy was counter- productive. Liquor consumption has become a habit for a section of people and it is not easy to wean them away from that addiction without a sustained enlightening drive,'' said the minister.
"There was a three-fold increase in drug consumption in Kerala after the closure of bars. The abuse of psychotropic substances among the youngsters is on the rise. Besides, the number of people using whitener, cough syrup and bicycle tube solutions as drugs is also on the rise," said Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala.
Cases pertaining to Abkari Act and Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act are going up after the bars were closed, according to police and excise departments' statistics.
Only 508 drug cases were registered by Kerala in 2008. Until 2013, the number of drug cases in Kerala remained below 1000, only in that year 974 cases were reported. But the scenario changed suddenly in 2014 when 418 bars in lower grades remained closed. In 2014, the state police had registered 2233 drug cases as per NDPS Act, whereas the number of cases has reached 985 in the first three months of 2015.
The state excise crime records show that 399 drug cases have been registered from April to July this year. (Since April, all bars except five-star ones have been remaining closed). Whereas, the number of drug cases in the corresponding period last year was 261. In the first four months of this fiscal, state excise department has registered 5104 Abkari cases as against 4248 cases in the corresponding period previous year. In the last four months, the excise officials have seized 363 kg of ganja as against 166 kg of the same substance seized from April to July, last year. In the recent months, state had witnessed the seizure of cocaine, heroin, hashish oil and brown sugar, although not in huge quantities.
After the closure of bars, inter-state drug rackets have targeted Kerala, Excise sources said. The year-around, movement of migrant workers from North and Northeastern states to Kerala has given a safe conduit for the transportation of drugs, ganja and other similar stuff.
"People are still reluctant to alert the police or excise about the operation of the drug rackets. There are instances in which informers and social workers have been physically targeted by the drug rackets," sources said.
According to the officials, another reason for rampant use of drugs is the failure of the health department to ensure the restrictions in the sale of mainly tranquilizer medicines, which should be sold only on prescription.
Tablets containing psychotropic substance are mainly used by students. Students studying in other states are sometimes used as carriers of the psychotropic stuff. Hundreds of ampules of tranquilizer drugs have been seized by police and excise in the recent months, sources said.
Kerala is witnessing an increase in the cases of illegal sale of spurious liquor, arrack and smuggling of Indian-made foreign liquor from Karnataka and Goa after bar closure, apart from the drug abuse after the closure of bars. Last year, excise had seized 10384 litres of stimulating ayurvedic tonic (arishtam). This year, the quantity of the arishtam seized by the excise in the first three months was 4736 litres. If the excise had registered a total of 13676 abakari cases in 2014, the number of cases until May this year has touched 6085.
Meanwhile, of the 712 closed bars, 688 have been converted into beer and wine parlours. The closure of bars has contributed only to increased flow of revenue for the government as the sale of liquor through the government owned outlets increased manifold. The revenue from the sale of IMFL in April and May this year had increased by Rs 218 crore compared to the figure of the corresponding months, last year.