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Pensioners’ paradise on a new high

After a series of high-profile drug busts in the last few months, residents are wondering if Pune is becoming a centre for illegal trade in narcotics, reports Yogesh Joshi.

india Updated: May 08, 2007 23:51 IST

On January 17, custom officials confiscated 1,350 grams of heroin worth Rs 1.50 crore after raiding two courier firms in Koregaon Park and Shastri Nagar.

On the intervening night of March 3 and 4, the Pune rural police busted a rave party at the foothills of the famous Sinhagad Fort, some 200 km from Mumbai.

The incident led to a series of raids in which more than 1000 kg of marijuana were seized.

On Saturday, the Crime Branch arrested a police constable from Jammu and Kashmir and three others and seized 540 grams of heroin worth Rs 50 lakh. On Monday, 650 grams of heroin worth Rs 65 lakh and 300 grams of charas worth Rs 24,000 were recovered from two people in Kondhwa.

‘Pensioners’ Paradise’, ‘Oxford of the East’ and now drug hub?

After a series of high-profile drug busts in the last few months, residents are wondering if Pune is becoming a centre for illegal trade in narcotics.

Police officers told Hindustan Times that with its substantial student population, the drug danger was clear and present.

Known as pensioners' paradise till the early 90’s, the city metamorphosed into an educational hub, attracting students from all over the country. More recently, young professionals are coming to Pune in hordes too and several Information Technology firms have set up base here.

"I can’t say if Pune has become a narco-hub. But going by the series of hauls of huge quantities of contraband, it is clear that due to the large number youngsters coming here, the demand for drugs has gone up substantially,” said Pune Police Commissioner Jayant Umaranikar.

The number of patients admitted at Muktangan De-addiction Centre, the city’s prominent rehabilitation centre for drug and alcohol addicts, reflects a similar trend. "Youngsters take drugs as a means to deal with stress. During the last few years, there has been a hike in the percentage of young people becoming drug addicts,” said Mukta Puntambekar, clinical psychologist and deputy director at the centre.

The number of young drug abusers went up from 196 in 2006 to 243 in first half of the current year. "The age group of drugs abusers is 17/18 to 40 years. Solvents, cough syrups and chemicals like Whitener are also commonly used,” said Dwigen Smart, regional support officer at the centre.

Some foreign nationals are part of the city’s drug ‘mafia’.

"Those earlier involved in illicit liquor selling have turned to drug peddling,” said Umaranikar.
A senior police officer told HT that students — both foreign and out-of-state — were the target of the peddlers.

To hell and back

Ramesh Kamdar (40) got addicted to drugs when he was 16, but managed to come out of it. He now works as counselor at Regional Resource Training Center, Muktangan De-addiction Centre.

"I had lost interest in everything. But support from family and friends saved me.”

He lost 12 years of his life to drugs. Now he helps other addicts reclaim their youth.