The NCB is high. On publicity. Operation Bollywood has leveraged the marijuana habit of a dead actor into a vast conspiracy by a drug cartel that supplies tinsel town stars with weed.
This reformist zeal has thrown a young middle class girl in prison on the basis of very little proof of being the Mob Boss of B-Town's Cosa Nostra, and is against her bail plea because her crime is "worse than murder or culpable homicide".
Even Ram Gopal Varma can’t think up such hyperbole without being laughed out of the multiplex. What have you been smoking, NCB? Like every government agency, the NCB too thrives on media limelight, especially when the accused is a celebrity.
It is having a field day capturing the mobile phones of Bollywood stars—exclusively girls as if all Salman Khan does for kicks is drinking milk and eating jaggery. A Nigerian drug dealer caught in Delhi’s Malviya Nagar or a Mumbai marijuana maven killed in a midnight shootout on Sassoon Docks merits a single column in the inside page of a newspaper.
So far, agencies shirk taking on the powerful drug mafia with extensive connections and global money power. Indian cinema is replete with plots involving poor suckers in uniform being handed the can by corrupt netas and cops until justice catches up.
Gangsters who push heroin and cocaine are not a pleasant lot who hold the health of their tormentors in high esteem. For any law agency, a celeb catch is a godsend.
Agencies don’t concern themselves with the great unwashed - a smack addict sleeping senseless on the pavement gets a rueful nudge by the beat cop at best. However, the Bollywood witch-hunt may have unintended positive consequences if the NCB means business. Perhaps, the searchlight may fall on the burgeoning drug misuse by India’s youth and students.
Whatever be its political and media compulsions, the NCB must live up to its responsibility towards India’s future generations. The philosophy of your friendly neighbourhood drug pusher is “catch them young.” School kids are OD-ing.
IIT Kanpur’s brightest have drug issues. Studies confirm that drug use is highest among adolescent children. A study conducted on post-graduate students of numerous colleges in Uttar Pradesh showed narcotics use was highest among, ahem, male medical students—barbiturates, mandrax and pain killers, and the kind.
The girls favored Equanil and painkillers. Udta Punjab needs no further explanation. A research paper from the International Journal of Community Medicine and Public Health says in a Gujarat district 37.67 percent rural adolescents were drug abusers compared to 22.67 percent of urban addicts. Poll sops are fine, but drug addiction in rural India is a crucial deterrence to growth. India is a patchwork of contradictions. Ironically bhang, which has powerful psychotropic effects, is legal. Buckets of cannabis milk are consumed during Holi. Sadhus ritually smoke charas in public.
As many as 2.2 crore Indians consume bhang while about 1.3 crore use ganja and charas, calling into question a drug policy that puts Rhea and company in jail. Certainly, there is rampant drug use in Bollywood. What matters more is that more and more of our children are on drugs. Their future cannot be vaped away for any agency’s glamorous moment in the sun.