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Asian Tribune is published by E-LANKA MEDIA(PVT)Ltd. Vol. 20 No. 101

Maninder in Coke Trouble

By Chandra Mohan - Syndicate Features

The arrest of former Test cricketer Maninder Singh on a charge of possession of about one gm of cocaine puts the spotlight on the wide usage of the drug in India by the well-heeled, the rich and the famous, as well as adventure seeking youth. Only some weeks ago, nearly 200 young persons were arrested in Pune for attending a ‘rave’ party. In 2001, a film star, Fardeen Khan, was arrested for possessing cocaine and the case against him is still dragging in court. And memories are still fresh of Rahul Mahajan reportedly taking an overdose of cocaine in the company of some friends while still mourning for the loss of his slain father, the BJP’s Pramod Mahajan. A personal assistant of late Mahajan died with an overdose while Rahul was lucky to have recovered after treatment in a corporate hospital.

A common feature in the arrest of celebrities is that its extensive media coverage generates an undercurrent of sympathy for them for being victims of a law that frowns upon some ‘harmless’ fun and celebrations. Not that anyone can grudge Maninder Singh receiving words of support from any quarter, but use of drugs or, for that matter, other forms of intoxication is frowned upon not just by the law but a vast section of the population.

Some of Maninder’s cricketing pals rushed to defend him, all expressing surprise that he could be actually a ‘coke’ addict. Maninder himself has said that unnamed opponents were trying to frame him. For those not familiar with his personal or professional life it is not clear who these opponents could be and what do they gain by having him booked on a charge of possession of cocaine. Whether the public ever gets to know about the enemies of Maninder may depend upon the manner in which his prosecution proceeds.

The first police version was that Maninder, apparently stressed with both professional work (commentary and cricket academy) and domestic problems had admitted to the use of cocaine, though he was not a habitual user. A person who had allegedly supplied the cocaine to him was also arrested. But the police said that he was not a regular drug peddler. The original source of supply of cocaine to Maninder was unknown when he was released on bail the next day.

Many are likely to suspect a foreign hand here. If the spate of stories relating to the arrest of Nigerians in recent days (almost one in a fortnight) are true it would appear that they play a major role in circulating this highly prized party drug. Almost invariably the Nigerians caught with drugs have arrived in India on student visa. But they abandon their studies once they become part of the vast network of drug suppliers in the country.

So popular is cocaine among certain types of partygoers that the network of suppliers is supposed to exist in all the big Indian cities. The business is obviously lucrative. One gm of cocaine can fetch anywhere between Rs 5000 and Rs 7000, nearly double the price a year ago. Many hauls yield a rich crop of cocaine. Last year, one Nigerian was caught with 16 Gms. And its demand pattern is further reflected in the fact that while till May 2006, the police had seized 63 Gms of cocaine; by May this year the figure had crossed 121 Gms. This is besides the seizures made by the Narcotics Control Bureau.

Delhi and Mumbai are among the cities where cocaine is most in demand. The port city of Mumbai is the main centre of supply. It is believed that in Delhi up to 100 ‘rave parties’ are thrown in a week, attended by not only models, fashion designers, the rich industrialists but also the young well-paid executives. The venues are usually the farmhouses or some equally secluded and safe places. Sometimes, such parties are also said to be held in upscale restaurants.

Possession of more than one gm of cocaine entails a jail term of up to 10 years. It is difficult to believe that the police are unaware of the large number of drug parties in the city. But two reasons can be guessed for the relative laxity shown by the police. One, the participants in these parties are all influential persons in their own right or offspring and relatives of powerful people. The other reason could be the more obvious one: bribery.

It is not known how true it is but it has been said that the police sometimes do not catch the Nigerian peddlers because most of them are HIV positive! If true, that is surely a unique way of doing an illegal business. But most people are not likely to believe this, given the widespread corruption in the police force, though the role of foreigners behind the supply chain may not be in much doubt.

The government may be disinclined to take up the matter with the Nigerians for diplomatic reasons. Some extra vigil over the activities of certain students from that country may be necessary. In fact, there may be some who would like a stricter control over the issue of student visas.

The drug users seem to think that the law is needlessly harsh. From time to time voices are raised for legalising certain drugs. In Western countries drugs have been symbols of a counter culture. Many drug users have been well known figures—ranging from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Sigmund Freud and a host of American celebrities—politicians, writers, film stars, players and musicians. It has been reported that nearly 15 percent of Americans have had ‘coke’ or some other drug at one time or the other, because it is available ‘easily’. The ‘coke’ market in the US is estimated at $40 billion.

There was a time in the 19th century before anaesthesia was discovered when pure cocaine was used in eye, nose and throat surgeries. The drug has the ability to constrict blood vessels and limit bleeding. But its anaesthetic qualities are not needed today. Cocaine is quite harmful. It may make the user feel euphoric and energetic but it can also cause serious health problems like heart attacks, respiratory failure, strokes and seizures. The Rahul Mahajan case has established at least this much—that cocaine can be deadly.

- Syndicate Features -

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