THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: When 19-year-old John, a local lad, went to Bengaluru to pursue his graduation, he had two chief aims - to secure a degree and land a job in a multinational company plus enjoy life to the fullest.
For John, the first year went smooth. The exam scores were good and it was smooth sailing on the social front also, complete with parties. He then began to experiment with drugs.
Being an occasional drinker, his progression towards drug was aided by friends and 'pimps'. 'Pimp' is the slang for Malayalees, mostly youngsters, who reach the Garden City to pursue higher education but drop out of studies after getting sucked into the murky world of drugs trade and solicitation.
"Solicitation is their side job. They make good money from the drugs' trade," said John. Sources said one-third of the drug-related cases in Kerala has some connection with students in Bengaluru - either as end-users or as peddlers. In the past one year, as many as 10 Malayalees studying in Bengaluru were nabbed while smuggling/peddling drugs.
After he became hopelessly hooked onto drugs, John's studies took a back seat. Soon, he began selling the 'stuff'. He didn't make a fortune out of it though, but it was enough to bankroll his drug use. However, John was apprehended by the Excise Department special squad here on April 19. Now out on bail, John, who regrets his decision to become a smuggler, said Malayali students' involvement in the drugs trade should be a source of worry.
"There are several hundred students trapped in the labyrinth of the drug mafia and they need to be rescued," he said.
The modus operandi of the drug mafia is simple. Make their clients hardcore drug addicts and the rest will be taken care of by the addicts themselves. "There are times when you are short of money. The wholesale dealers will then come up with an advice. Why you are wasting money buying stuff for a single smoke? Take half a kilo or more. Keep a portion for your use and sell the rest to the users. That's how the whole network is built," John said.
Like John there are several others who extricated themselves from the tentacles of the drug trade. Some after getting caught while some grew tired of the job and quit. Khan (name changed) from Kalpetta in Wayanad, who completed his engineering from a Bengaluru college, made a quick buck from the sale of the contraband before the local peddlers' intimidation drove him out.
"Contrary to perception, there is no big challenge for the sales in Kerala. Most of the users know one another and a safe network is easily built. But in Bengaluru it's tough to run the trade. Bengaluru locals know we make considerable money and hence they tip-off the police about us," he said.
The Excise Department too is aware of this menace. “There has been a definite increase in the number of students turning smugglers. Bengaluru is an ideal place to procure the substance and the students resort to the practice to earn some quick buck," said Excise Assistant Commissioner, Thiruvananthapuram Range, S Muhammad Ubaid.
A top source, who spoke to Express, referred to an Excise dossier which revealed Wayanad has the highest number of students engaged in inter-state smuggling of drugs.
“Wayanad tops the chart and it's mostly synthetic drugs including LSD. Palakkad is second and it's mostly ganja, followed by Thiruvananthapuram, Kannur and Kollam in that order,” sources said.
The students-turned-drug smugglers resort to ingenious ways to hoodwink the authorities.
“There was this case where 'magic mushroom' mixed in egg omelette was caught from students returning from Bengaluru via Ooty. The stuff was purchased from a local grower in the hill station and it was mixed in the omelette to evade detection,” said B R Swaroop, Excise Inspector, Kazhakoottam Range.