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In Vasai, a ‘youth brigade’ takes on drug menace

Vasai anti-drug brigade scans Vasai’s streets looking for drug addicts who it tries to rehabilitate.

Written by Megha Sood |
January 26, 2015 4:21:58 am
anti-drug brigade, Vasai, Drug menace, drug addiction, youth brigade The group comprises young businessmen.

Farhan Pathan, 29, recently spotted a 14-year-old boy in the streets of Vasai, a distant suburb of Mumbai, while he was trying to sell his cellphone. It was Pathan’s accumen that made him notice that the boy who hails from a relatively welloff background was a drug addict, a fact which even the boys’ family found hard to believe.

Pathan is part of the ‘Vasai anti-drug brigade’, a group comprising young businessmen from the suburb who scan Vasai’s streets looking for drug addicts who they try to rehabilitate and identifying peddlers whom they get arrested.

“Saving the youth from MD is our only concern now. Work is secondary,” said Pathan who is a builder by profession who these days spends most of his time trying to wean away the youth of the Vasai Virar belt from drugs.

The menace of Methaphetamine or MD as it is popularly known has lured many new addicts in the past few years with a large number of school and college students getting hooked onto the drug. The boy whom Pathan had caught had sold his cellphone once and was in the process of selling his second one to get money to fuel his addiction.

“His parents refused to believe that their son was a drug addict, saying that he had never displayed any traits of being one. But after I explained to them that their son was consuming MD, which is colourless and orderless, the boy’s parents admitted him to a rehabilitation centre in Vasai,” Pathan adds.

Pathan is aided in his campaign by other youngsters like 25-year-old Porus Jokhi, who runs a construction material supplying business. According to Jokhi, drug peddlers target boys and girls in schools and lure them with a free sample of MD.

“It takes only two drags of MD to get hooked to it. Since the first sample is free, the youth easily falls prey and when they get addicted, the peddlers ask them to pay or ask them to get more friends. Thus, a chain is formed,” said Jokhi.

Pathan said that they were unaware of the menace until four months ago when a session in the mosque was dedicated to this issue. “We then found out that in a single rehabilitation centre in Vasai, there are 60 children from schools who are MD addicts. A 16-year-old girl is critical. These facts changed the way of our thinking,” said Pathan, who claimed that he was attacked by a drug peddler with a knife and suffered severe injury on his arm, while he was trying to track a 15-year-old suspected addict.

Since then, along with his 24 other friends, Pathan started the anti-drug brigade in Vasai. The group not only helps the police track drug peddlers but also helps in arresting drug suppliers. On Thursday, the police arrested two drug suppliers with the help of this brigade. “The drug peddlers get the drug from suppliers in Bandra and Malad and sell it here for a higher price,” said Ranjeet Rathod, a 25-year-old businessman from Vasai.

The brigade has not only created a Facebook page to support their cause, but also take efforts to make routine night rounds. “We take turns every night and go to places like Electric House, behind the Suncity ground, the toilets behind the slum area near K Movie Star theatre and find boys from decent families consuming this drug. On the eve of New Year, on December 31st, our entire brigade was out on motorcycles, making rounds of the area to save our youth,” said Jokhi.

“These men are working hard and helping us,” said S Bhosle, Deputy Superintendent of Police (Vasai).
Pathan and his group have also taken the help of businessmen and IT professionals, working with Mumbai-based firms, by organising a kite flying event on ‘Makar Sankranti’, where anti-drug slogans were written on the kites that they distributed among school and college students and had asked them to fly them.

Jokhi said that once they know about anyone who has become a victim of drug abuse they befriend them and try and figure out from where and from whom the drugs were purchased. Once they get to know the names, the brigade informs the police and traps are laid to catch the culprits.

“Most of the petty crimes are done by children for money to buy drugs. Chain-snatching, pick-pocketing are a few examples of such crimes,” said Jitendra Pandey (24), a shopowner who is a member of the brigade.

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