After 712 bars in Kerala were closed from April this year as part of the state government’s new liquor policy, use of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances has gone up in the state, figures from the police and excise department revealed. The data further indicates that sale of illegal liquor and stimulating ayurvedic tonics known as arishtam has also increased.
Kerala Excise Minister K Babu said recently that the state is confronting a “major challenge” as liquor addicts are “exploring new ways”, leading to a rise in cases related to the use of ganja, drugs and other addictive substances.
“I won’t say the new liquor policy was counter- productive. But, liquor consumption has become a habit for a section of people and it is not easy to wean them away from that addiction without a sustained awareness drive,’’ he added.
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Recently, Home Minister Ramesh Chennithala had stated that there was a three-fold increase in drug consumption in Kerala after the bars were closed. He had said use of psychotropic substances, chemicals like whitener, cough syrup and bicycle tube solutions as drugs was on the rise among youngsters.
Figures from police and excise department confirmed that cases pertaining to Abkari Act and Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act are going up.
In 2008, Kerala police registered 508 drug cases. The number remained below 1,000 for the next five years with 974 cases being reported in 2013. However, the scenario changed suddenly in 2014 when 418 bars in lower grades were closed. That year, 2,233 cases were registered under the NDPS Act.
For instance, in April-July 2014 , 261 NDPS cases were registered while in the same period in 2015, 399 cases were filed.
Over the past few months, the state has also witnessed the seizure of cocaine, heroin, hashish oil and brown sugar, although not in huge quantities.
Excise department sources said that after the closure of bars, inter-state drug rackets have set shop in Kerala. “People are still reluctant to alert the police about the operation of these rackets. There are instances in which informers and social workers have been physically targeted,” the sources added.
Officials also said the state’s failure to implement restrictions on sale of tranquilizer medicines was another reason for the rise. Hundreds of ampules of tranquilizer drugs have been seized. Kerala is also witnessing a spurt in the cases of illegal sale of spurious liquor, arrack and smuggling of Indian-made foreign liquor from Karnataka and Goa.