This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by 101reporters. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

With Addicts As Young As 11, How Bengaluru Became South India’s ‘Drug Capital’

More from 101reporters

By Maitreyee Boruah for Youth Ki Awaaz:

Let’s admit it. The film Udta Punjab lays bare the fact that Punjab is in denial that a major chunk of the state’s population, both young and old, rural and urban, are battling a drug epidemic. But it’s not Punjab alone which is awash with drugs.

Bengaluru is facing similar problems. The question is, will it take an ‘Udta Bengaluru’ to wake up the Karnataka government to the scourge eating into its innards?

Udta Bengaluru, Udta Drug Abuse

165 LSD Bots siezed by NCB Bangalore in Feburary 2016 (3)
A blot of LSD.

The growing number of drug rackets busted by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), Bengaluru, in the last two years is a clear indication of rampant drug abuse in the IT city. In 2014, NCB Bengaluru, busted eight drug rackets. The number went up to 17 in 2015, as per the data available with the agency. The concern was discussed in a meeting at NCB’s head office in Delhi too, a senior official looking after operations told Youth Ki Awaaz.

According to NCB officials, youngsters are more vulnerable to drug addiction. Drug peddlers know this and prey mostly on them.

For the record, Bengaluru with a huge floating population, is infamous as the ‘drug capital’ of south India.

On the basis of raids conducted by the NCB, the drug most popular among Bengaluru’s youth is LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide also known as acid), followed by hashish, ecstasy pills, ganja, heroin, cocaine and MDMA, a pure form of ecstasy that goes by the street name ‘molly’.

Mostly sold soaked-dry in tiny blotter paper, sugar cubes or gelatin, even 0.1 gram LSD is of considerable commercial value.

165 LSD Blots siezed
165 LSD blots siezed by NCB.

Sunil Kumar Sinha, zonal director, NCB, Bengaluru told Youth Ki Awaaz that LSD “can be easily concealed anywhere, and detection is very difficult.” Still, NCB officials have seized a significant amount of the prohibited contraband entering the IT city in recent years. It is believed to be routed to the city via Goa from various European countries.

Sample this: In 2014, of all drug seizures, which included hashish, ecstasy pills, ganja, heroin, cocaine and MDMA— LSD stood out. In February 2014, the NCB confiscated 63 LSD blots and 23 LSD blots in October the same year. Four-five blots come to about 0.2 grams of the banned drug and each blot can either be a tiny piece of paper (difficult to measure) or even hidden in regular looking sugar cubes.

In 2015, the agency in six separate cases seized LSD blot, LSD-laced sugar cubes and LSD blot papers.

In 2016, so far, as many as 165 LSD blots (1.66 gram) have been impounded.

Though these quantities might seem very small, a very expensive drug, 1 gram of LSD can make for as many as 30,000 doses of the banned substance, with the market value of each dose ranging from Rs 2,000 to Rs 10,000. Now do the math.

Asked if the usage of LSD has increased in Bengaluru over the years, Sinha says, “We can’t confirm the amount of usage, but high detection definitely points to high demand.”

Social Media & Social Stigma

To counter the drug menace, NCB, Bengaluru decided to take its fight public back in June 2014 and launched a Facebook page for the same. The move was intended to reach out to the tech-savvy young population of the city and create awareness on drug abuse.

On the feedback received on Facebook, Sinha claims, “A lot of people have shared important information about drug rackets, traffickers and users over phone after following us on our Facebook page.”

There is, however, a downside to creating awareness in the virtual world. Experts working for rehabilitation of addicts say online platforms such as Facebook and Twitter could prove counter-productive.

“Because of the social stigma attached with addiction, neither addicts nor their families talk about the problem openly. We avoid interacting with people on Facebook and Twitter,” says Vivek M, President, Rehabilitation from Alcohol, Substance Abuse Prevention (RASP), a licensed rehabilitation centre.

Vivek’s concern doesn’t seem entirely unfounded. If the response to awareness campaigns and requests for information on social media is any indication, this post shared by the NCB on Facebook in June 25, 2015 got only three ‘Likes’ in a year.

ncb Facebook screenshot

Even though the agency claims to have received several tip-offs over phone because of such public appeals, officials admit no victim of drugs would openly share information about the networks supplying drugs in the city on Facebook.

“It’s risky. Drug trade is a law and order problem, a crime. Most of our callers are anonymous. We keep the identity of all our informers secret,” says Sinha.

The Facebook page of the NCB, Bengaluru chapter, had 560 ‘Likes’ at the time of filing this report.

The Addiction Starts Young

Rampant mostly among youngsters, drug addiction in Bengaluru, though, is not restricted to a particular age group, sex and class in society, say experts. According to a survey conducted by the Karnataka State Temperance Board, Bengaluru, in 2012, about 30% of school and college students in Bengaluru are drug addicts. The Board is an autonomous body, working under the Karnataka government, entrusted with the task of eradicating alcoholism and hazardous drug addiction. The city has 16 licensed rehabilitation centres, including the Centre for Addiction Medicine at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru.

Drug rehabilitation centres observe that children as young as 13 years are getting addicted.

“We have in-house patients as young as 11 years old also,” Vivek confessed to Youth Ki Awaaz.

Tip Of The Iceberg

Saif Sadiq, a reformed drug addict-turned-outreach worker who works in his neighbourhood on Tannery Road, says, “On Tannery Road, every household, and every lane has drug users.” Sadiq’s claim may sound a bit of an exaggeration but statistics also indicate the same.

In 2015, Bengaluru-based NGO Sangama, along with the Karnataka State AIDS Prevention Society (KSAPS), identified around 534 drug users on Tannery Road and DJ Halli, a neighbouring locality.

“The number, 534 ‘injecting drug users’ (IDUs), covers only those who have come out in the open and are seeking rehabilitation. It is just the tip of the iceberg,” says Baiju Satyan, Sadiq’s colleague and a former IDU.

Satyan, 35, who was a call centre employee, lost his job because of his addiction. “Those were difficult days. I got into drugs during my 20s. I come from a humble background. My parents have always been supportive, but it was under peer pressure that I got into drugs. I was an IDU,” Satyan reminisces about his past life.

Talking about his rehabilitation process, he adds, “It is not an easy process. Thankfully, I have not used drugs for the last five years. I went to a rehabilitation centre to free myself from drugs. There are always chances of relapse. I lead a disciplined life to keep myself away from drugs. We need love and compassion to get back into normal life. Addiction to various substances is considered as a crime. In reality, it is a disease and society should accept it to restrict its spread.”

Not Foreign But Desi Enemy

Contrary to the general perception that mostly Africans living in India are involved in drug trafficking, the NCB has nabbed a large number of Indians while busting drug rackets. Of the 25 arrests made in 2014, 20 were Indians. In 2015, 23 out of 34 arrested were Indians, according to NCB, Bengaluru. In 2016, so far, two Indians and two foreigners have been arrested by the NCB for their involvement in drug rackets.

Another fact that has come to the notice of the NCB, is how several illegal drug manufacturing units have come up in Karnataka in the last few years. One such unit was busted by the NCB in Mangaluru early this year. According to the agency, the manufacturing unit in the coastal city was run from a home. The racketeers bought the chemicals required over the internet and were manufacturing MDMA. Similarly, officials of the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) busted a factory in the outskirts of the city in April this year, which was manufacturing spurious drugs.

In Punjab, it took almost a decade of government inaction and an election season for the problem of drug abuse to become a matter of national debate. Is Karnataka too waiting for an election to address the situation?

About the author: Maitreyee Boruah is a Bangalore-based freelance journalist and a senior member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters. Her reporting reflects issues of society at large and human rights in particular.

Image source: Anand Sharma/Getty Images
You must be to comment.
  1. John Jacob

    I am looking for a comment I made in response to this article on June 15th or 16th, 2016. Can anyone find it for me? My name is John Jacob.

More from 101reporters

Similar Posts

By Jagisha Arora

By Ritwik Trivedi

By Paribha Vashist

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.









We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below