Drug use in Modern India


There has been a significant increase in alcohol and drug use in India. These issues are culturally seen as ‘taboo’ and sensitive topics, thus preventing people from openly talking about it. From my own personal experience, I have seen that the older generation tend to shy away from such issues and refuse to discuss them. This could be because they have less experience with drugs or alcohol use. On the other hand, by withholding information, they could be trying to protect the younger generation from the ‘bad’ world, a world swirling with dangerous drug trades and trafficking. The harsh reality is that there is a serious problem in India, regarding drugs and alcohol abuse. 

A study found that there was a large number of school children who were drug users in Shimla. 54.74% of boys and 24.16% of girls were addicted to drugs. The NGO, Youth Enlightening the Society (YES), carried out the survey in association with the Indira Gandhi Medical College in the last five months. “A majority of the drug users are from affluent and middle-class families.” This is unusual, as we would normally find the lower classes resorting to drugs or alcohol. The fact that the affluent, middle-classes are engaging in drug use illustrates that Indian society is rapidly changing. Drug addiction and abuse is therefore, a critical problem in India and the situation is worsening due to peer pressure, popularity, easy availability and lack of policing. 

Twenty-three year old Meha Bahuguna, from Delhi died from a suspected drug overdose. She went to a music festival called the ‘Sunburn Goa Festival’ at Candolim Beach in December 2009 and collapsed. She was rushed to hospital and doctors said that she died from multi-organ failure. She consumed ‘angel-dust’ or Phencyclidine (PCP), a hallucinogenic drug. This drug can make one feel aggressive, disorientated, anxious and paranoid. She also had the illness of bipolar disorder or manic depression. The management team have denied all allegations that drugs were sold at the event. Therefore, it is likely that she purchased the drugs elsewhere and could have consumed the drug before coming to the event. Drugs are “non-existent in Goa,” the State Director General of Police (DGP) said. However, I believe that the media are hiding the truth about drug use in Goa, as they wish to protect youngsters from being exposed to drugs. This story therefore exemplifies, that the topic of drugs is an unspeakable issue, one that is not acknowledged or accepted. The truth is that drug intoxication is highly popular in Goa and there is an easy availability of these drugs which the police have not tackled. One person said that “Drugs are very easy available at the Sunburn Beach Festival in North Goa.” Confirming this statement, sources and eye-witness reports have said that Meha had easy access to drugs. Her father said “I don’t really know whether my daughter took drugs, but persons in such conditions do become susceptible to drug use.” The Goan Home Minister Naik implausibly claimed that: “There is no drug scene in Goa. It is created by the media, by press people. You will not get drugs here.”

It has also been reported that she was taken to hospital by a western-looking man named Michael Melin. By examining photographs on facebook, it has become apparent that she was friends with Melin. The police have reason to believe that Melin was with Meha when she purchased the drug. Dr. D’ Souza said that Meha was hallucinating, experienced convulsions and was not responding to the medication the doctors had given her. “We didn’t know what she had consumed...but it was definitely not just alcohol.” 

The Indian News has reported that it is not known how she was given the drug, where she purchased the drug from or who supplied her with the drugs. They have raised the question as to whether it was someone’s deliberate ‘evil plan’ to kill her by supplying her with drugs. Therefore, it is probable that this was a revenge attack. As she was consuming alcohol at the party, she would not have been aware of what was happening around her. Therefore, someone could have easily slipped drugs into her drink. It is not known whether she herself took PCP, intending to overdose or whether someone deliberately gave her these drugs. 

Just before she died, a drug peddler called Francis Fernandez was arrested, in conjunction with Meha’s death. He was found with 50 pills of ecstasy. The media seem confused about this issue as she died of an overdose of PCP, yet Fernandez was in possession of ecstasy. Therefore, it does not seem likely that he supplied her with the drugs. We do not know who supplied her with the drugs, whether it was someone from within the event or outside. 

The Goa Police embarked on several raids and arrested a notorious drug dealer, David Driham alias Dudu. An Israeli drug dealer was also arrested, Yanit Benaim alias Atala. This was in conjunction with the arrest of seven policemen. Dudu said that it is “easy to deal in drugs in India as the entire society is ‘corrupt.’” He named three Goa police officials who he bribed to “run his business ‘smoothly.’” Atala said that a “senior anti-narcotics cell (ANC) officer, whom he identifies as ‘Ashish,’ regularly sells him drugs seized from raids.” This therefore, reveals connections between the drug trade and the Goan police. This shows how dangerous India has become. 

This story highlights that a woman was a drug user. Usually, in Indian society, men are more likely to use drugs and alcohol. This depicts that Indian society is changing as it is becoming more liberal and ‘free.’ A gender difference can also be seen as more women are using drugs. This is shocking and highly unusual as we would not expect women to drink or to use drugs, therefore reflecting a picture of modern India. Evidently, there is a breakdown of traditional values as India is moving towards a more westernised and individualistic society. One could argue that there is a ‘New India,’ where there is an undercover ‘drug culture,’ that may have resulted due to the fact that young Indian people are now earning more money and thus, have more money to spend. They lead consumer lifestyles, leading to the idea that they are more independent and make their own choices in life. There is clearly a generation gap as in the past, young teenagers would not have earned enough money or even thought about buying drugs. 

In conclusion, I believe that the government is not acknowledging the drug problem despite many Indian commentators believing that it “could cripple the next generation.” This issue urgently needs to be addressed and brought to the attention of the government. More importantly, action needs to be taken by the police. The police are fully aware of this problem, yet have failed to address the situation.