Palakkad: Even as Kerala has been witnessing a spurt in narcotic cases, the increase in the involvement of women, especially students aged between 22 and 25, has become a matter of concern.
Most women arrested were part of gangs dealing in psychoactive drug MDMA, known as Ecstasy or Molly in party circles, hashish oil and LSD (Lysergic acid diethylamide) stamps.
The Narcotics Control Bureau and the intelligence wing of the Excise Enforcement wing have found that the majority of women handled MDMA.
The Excise had recently submitted before the high court that there has been an increase in the involvement of women in smuggling drugs. The spurt in their numbers was noticed after the COVID-19 outbreak.
Though women had been involved in smuggling ganja, they were mostly from outside the state and from poor financial backgrounds. However, students pursuing professional courses, and those working in the IT sector were found joining the rackets over the past three years.
Incidentally, the gangs exploit their addiction to mostly MDMA and LSD stamps and make them carriers.
Drugs are available in different forms. Those coming in the form of mascara could be 'safely' smuggled into educational institutions.
One of the three women arrested in the recent Kakkanad drug case has been a teacher. She was found to be retailing MDMA, besides coordinating with various gangs.
As many as 18 young women have been arrested in narcotic cases during the past two years, and the 22-year-old woman from Thiruvananthapuram, arrested at Vandiperiyar in Idukki, was the last in the series of women arrested so far in drug-related cases.
Women as cover
Investigating agencies are viewing vehicles crossing into Kerala through Walayar from Bengaluru with suspicion. There are also 'couples', mostly college students, riding into the State on two-wheelers.
Of the 23 two-wheelers inspected during the past six months, MDMA was found in 14. The banned substances were found hidden in the bags or undergarments of women riding pillion with 'freakens'.
One of the riders caught had two grams of the banned substance in his wallet.
Instances of families travelling together in cars getting involved in peddling are also not rare. It has made authorities beef up the checking of vehicles.
According to the information received by the probe agencies, most women got used to the substance provided by classmates or employees of their colleges. Gradually they get addicted and carry the drug for their use while visiting Kerala.
Most vehicles found ferrying narcotic substances had three 'freakens' and an accompanying woman. Inspection of their social media accounts revealed their links with nationals of African countries.
How women carriers conceal stuff
Agencies have noticed a spurt in women hiding drugs on their person. Often, hiding MDMA and stamps in private parts hamper inspection and confiscation. Five grams of the banned substance was found hidden in the undergarment of a third-year MBBS student from Kollam who was arrested at Chavadi in Coimbatore.
Her family responded with profanities when informed of the arrest, investigators said. They had such unwavering trust in their daughter. Her father and brother, who reached the station, were inconsolable when they realised the facts.
On questioning, the young woman said a friend offered her the substance two years ago to relieve the pressure of long study hours, which often went late into the night. After using it a couple of times, she became addicted to it, and became a courier to procure the substance for her own use.
Further probe in the Kakkanad drug case in which the teacher was arrested, revealed the roles of three other women also. They were also arrested.
The point of no return
As many as 90 per cent of women arrested in drug cases were pursuing professional courses, while the remaining, barring two, were graduate students in Karnataka. A woman arrested near the Thevara bridge in Kochi was a final-semester MBA student. She was arrested while trying to sell the 'stuff' handed over to her by two others who had brought it from Bengaluru on a bike.
She later told investigators that she first used the substance during her second semester. Once addicted, she turned courier to raise funds to buy the substance. She was given the substance from Bengaluru after she could not find it in Kerala during her Christmas holidays.
The majority of those arrested so far, including men, are BTech, MCA, MBBS, MBA students.
They find solace in drugs to overcome pressure, fear of exams, and homesickness. Once addicted they reach the point of no return.
Officers of the Narcotics Control Bureau said addicts falling preying to sexual abuse is common.
The dark deal
Women seldom engage in drug deals alone. Most of them make transactions over the darknet where the identities are protected. The protection helps them evade arrest.
The darknet has several links to purchase drugs, and cryptocurrencies are often used in transactions. There are even foreign 'agencies' willing to courier the 'stuff' in small quantities.
Young men on bikes go as pilot and escort for women ferrying the banned substance. The woman will be riding pillion on the second bike. The escorting party will provide the details of the destination to the man riding with the woman.
Officials said most of the arrested women are experts in 'Darknet Deals.' "For sale: Two sets of tables and chairs." The advertisement on the darknet need not help one purchase furniture. It is a code for drug deals. The codes change according to the person and the network. Most addicts are familiar with these codes.
A woman seeking mascara is mostly an addict seeking her dose. Such attractive names given to drugs are familiar to even school students.
The Narcotics Control Bureau has received information that large quantities of drugs were smuggled into Kerala through the darknet ahead of Christmas and New Year celebrations. The network was based in Kochi.
Exploiting the addiction
About 95 per cent of women arrested were addicts-turned-carriers. There were instances of colleges expelling students after they had diverted the money sent from home for educational purposes to procure drugs.
If the LSD stamp is priced at Rs 2,000 in Bengaluru, it costs Rs 5,000 in Kerala. Addicts who cannot afford to purchase them turn carriers. Ferrying MDMA is not as risky as carrying ganja. MDMA could be carried in small quantities.
The Karnataka Police is not active in drug hunts, indirectly helping the peddlers. After the Narcotic Control Bureau started cracking the whip, several Bengaluru-based MDMA gangs have shifted base to Chennai, reports said.
Abyss of unending sorrow
Experts warned students not to use drugs ever even if friends insist to try it once. Once addicted, it will be difficult to come clean. Synthetic drugs do not help the user in any way but push the addict into an abyss of unending sorrow. Once addicted, the user will have to face the addiction alone without even the company of the friend who had initiated him/her into the dark world of narcotics.