VIBHA VERMA finds out that though some cases due to drug overdose cannot escape the roving eye of the alert Press, many such cases are either silenced or kept hidden from public
As the tourist season nears its peak, deaths of two young tourists allegedly due to drug overdose at Anjuna - where a cluster of bars and clubs make this place the most popular entertainment zone - refuses to go out of mind.
The tourist-favourite coastal village woke up to a rude shock about three months ago when the duo who were later identified as Nidan Abdullah, from Kerala and Pravin Sundaram from Tamil Nadu, died while partying at separate late night music and dance clubs. As per the ongoing probe, they were last seen in the parking lots of the respective premises where they collapsed and subsequently rushed to the hospital where doctors declared them dead.
Autopsy reports of the two nearly confirmed their deaths were due to drug overdose. The government, battling the drug menace in the State, has referred their viscera samples to the Central Forensic Science Laboratories (CFSL) in Hyderabad to ascertain the forensic department’s findings are correct.
Reliable sources told Herald that autopsy reports stated, “Edema of brains and lungs.” “Such observations are made in drug overdose cases. The samples were tested using newly procured modern machines at the Goa medical college and hospital but being a sensitive case, we are also cross confirming our results with the CFSL Hyderabad,” said a senior doctor at Goa Medical College and Hospital.
What’s unfortunate is that the local police are struggling to bring the case to a logical conclusion which it blames is owing to the delay in the receipt of the CFSL report. Police sources reveal that depositions of witnesses, recorded during the course of the investigation, nowhere indicate possession or consumption of drugs. The crux of the whole story is that there is no breakthrough in the case yet.
“We have questioned several persons including the deceased boys’ friends who were at the parties on the fateful night. None were able to provide us information that could give us a lead in the two cases. They don’t know what the victims consumed prior to their death,” said a senior officer claiming deposition of the staff of the club houses too did not fetch results to crack the cases.
The police sleuths are now solely depending on the viscera report. “It is a blind case,” said an officer, “We are waiting for the viscera report only after which charge sheet would be filed.” With no response from the CFSL Hyderabad, North Superintendent of Police Chandan Chowdhary told Herald that they have dispatched a reminder letter to the CFSL requesting to expedite the examination.
Interestingly, the very same forensic laboratory had some years ago refused to accept viscera samples from Goa citing ‘the laboratory is burdened.’ It was thereafter that Goa Police tied up with FSLs located in Belgaum, Gulbarga and Mangalore for accepting cases of North Goa district while labs in Bangalore, Mysore and Devanagari were sent samples of cases from the South Goa.
Death of the two youths exposed the authorities’ laxity to crackdown on the alleged drug-laced parties while also failing to act against number of illegal parties in the coastal belt across both the districts. The cases also left the authorities concerned red faced as violations after violations by the organizers of the late night parties surfaced, majority of which are allegedly linked with the drug trade.
Herald contacted some locals who claimed that some deaths in the coastal belt suspected due to drug overdose have not been made public. “One girl tourist was found dead close to the shore but the case was silenced. Some deaths are also reported in private hospitals located in the coastal belt and these are also suspected due to drug overdose. Nobody speaks about it,” said one of the local panch members.
“Large number of young domestic tourists are visiting Goa during the long weekends. Some of them are indulged in drugs... In the coming days, no party will be allowed in open spaces and after the 10pm deadline. Where there is music, there is a possibility of drugs and overconsumption of liquor. We will ensure that we adhere to this time limit,” she had said soon after the shocking incident.
This was followed by a series of raids and arrests of alleged drug peddlers. Among those arrested included Rohan Shetty of Nyex and Edwin Nunes of Curlies Shack for allowing alleged drug-related activities in respective premise. A waiter at Curlies Shack Manjunath Anverikar was caught red-handed with drugs in his possession while in a subsequent raid at Nyex club, Anjuna police arrested Joe Raymond Junior, 21, of Kerala for the same offense.
When Herald contacted the officer again, she claimed that registration of drug-related cases have doubled this year till October compared to the previous years. “A total of 59 NDPS cases have been booked in the North district this year, and 69 arrests have been made. This figures are twice over than the previous years,” she claimed refusing that the police have slowed down action against the illegal business.
Sources told Herald that some among those arrested confessed of transporting narcotics to Goa from different places like Bangalore and Odisha. However, the question remains that if the source of drugs is across Goa borders, how these easily penetrate in the State. “A car washer from Odisha confessed to the police that he had purchased drugs from his hometown. He brought the banned substance to Goa to earn extra money by selling it to tourists or youngsters,” revealed a police source.
Herald also learnt that a young engineer working in UK - also caught with drugs - had confessed of buying the substance from another party-goer at a discotheque in Bangalore.
Anjuna Sarpanch Savio Almeida claims the situation has improved in the village, albeit partially. “At least now we don’t see many people in inebriated condition or behaving abnormal which is a result of alleged consumption of drugs. There is some improvement in our village in the last few weeks,” he told Herald.