Not many people had an idea that the city of temples Bhubaneswar is also infamous outside as an epicentre of drug peddling. This is what national media reports hint at. While the central probe agencies are looking into the death of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput, Times Now stumbled upon some startling chat messages of Sushant's girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty with some of her close aides.
Looks like Rhea's months-old messages have done more damage to the capital city of Odisha, than what the half-a-dozen cyclones over the last two decades have done.
A day after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) wrote to Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) to probe the newly-emerged drug angle, NCB booked Rhea Chakraborty under the NDPS Act, and subsequently, a purported Bhubaneswar twist to the drug-angle in Sushant Singh Rajput case came to the fore.
Some of Rhea’s chat messages accessed by English news channel (Times Now), reveals that Rhea reportedly texted one of her friends Simone Khambatta that the weed available in Odisha’s capital city of Bhubaneswar is ‘best ever.’
The chat messages were reportedly exchanged back in March, and it seems Rhea was into drugs for long, the concerned news channel reported.
And that's how - Bhubaneswar - allegedly tagged by Rhea as the source of best weed, eventually made an entry into Sushant Singh Rajput case.
While Rhea Chakraborty’s purported chat on availability of weed in Bhubaneswar has become a point of discussion in national media, Odisha Director General of Police Abhay today stated that there is no clarity on the matter as of now, however, if NCB or any other agency seeks any help, Odisha Police will definitely cooperate in the ongoing investigation.
But there's a lot more to this drug aspect in Odisha than meets the eye. The DGP admitted that weed is easily available in Odisha, and it's a fact which cannot be denied, he said.
DGP Abhay said efforts are on to curb such illegal activity and Police have seized over 630 quintals of ganja so far which is highest than the yearly total seizure in 2018 and 2019. This apart, the STF has seized record 20.73kg brown sugar which is more than the combined seizure of all agencies of Odisha Police in the last eight years.
Has Bhubaneswar turned into a drug capital?
The allegation that Bhubaneswar is turning into a hub of illegal drug trade is not bogus.
In June this year when COVID-19 lockdown was in force, the Special Task Force of Odisha Police Crime Branch had achieved a major breakthrough in cracking down illegal narcotics trade by seizing nearly 4.5kg of heroin (brown sugar) from Rasulgarh area in Bhubaneswar. This is claimed as one of the biggest drugs hauls in recent times as the seized brown sugar was worth Rs 4.5 crore. Three peddlers- Debasish Behera, SK Kausar Ali and Prabir Kumar Singh were arrested in this connection and the procurement chain was suspected to have links with drug peddlers in Murshidabad of West Bengal.
The same day, Drug Task Force of Commissionerate Police seized 706 grams of Brown Sugar, the market value of which was estimated to be over Rs 70 lakh. A team led by Additional CP Sanjay Kumar Singh nabbed two persons following a raid near Info-valley road at Bada Raghunathpur in Bhubaneswar.
On June 3, the STF had arrested two persons in Bhubaneswar and seized heroin worth nearly Rs 1 crore from them.
Over the past few years, police have been on their toes to curb rampant narcotics trade carried out in different parts of the State. This year, crime branch STF seized 1.7 kg of brown sugar on March 11; 2.7 kg brown sugar on March 19, 1 kg contraband on June 2. Then came big hauls with the seizure of 4.45 kg brown sugar on June 19 and 3.285kg on July 19. STF DIG JN Pankaj cited joblessness as one of the reasons behind this trade as many youngsters are under the impression that it's an easier method to make money.
Brown sugar trade is not only rampant in slums of the capital city, there are a number of instances where college students have been found in the grip of narcotics.
Last year in February, excise sleuths arrested a B.Tech graduate student on charges of drug peddling in Bhubaneswar. The anti-drug squad reportedly nabbed him from Salia Sahi area and seized 83-gram brown sugar worth around Rs 8 lakh from his possession. The accused was targeting college students and selling the contraband item outside college campuses in the city.
Just days before that, another B.Tech student of a private university was arrested for his alleged involvement in brown sugar sale near Big Bazaar area in Patia. The excise officials seized a packet containing 60 grams brown sugar worth Rs 6 lakh and a motorcycle from his possession.
Acting tough against habitual drug peddlers, police and excise sleuths have intensified surveillance in Bhubaneswar to keep an eye on youths who are involved in this illegal trade, for, this seems to have crippled the entire generation.