The drug helpline launched by Calcutta Police is working, but not in helping the sleuths track down peddlers and addicts. Most of the calls are from addicts who want to teach peddlers a lesson for not giving them free purias when they are in dire straits.
“We never thought addicts would misuse the helpline this way. They have converted it into a weapon to teach peddlers a lesson,” said an official of the detective department narcotics wing.
The helpline was launched to help addicts by prodding them towards detoxification centres, as well as to net the peddlers. But it has served neither purpose.
Besides, there are people who have other uses for the helpline. “These people are either extortionists or local goons, who tip us off about peddlers whenever they are refused extortion money,” said an official of the narcotics department.
Citing an example, he said: “We received a call from Tangra a few months ago. Our officials raided the place and picked up the trader. During the course of investigation, we found that one of the local hoodlums had called us up as he was refused his hafta (weekly payment).”
Similarly, sleuths netted a peddler on information provided by an addict through the helpline. “After interrogating him, we tracked down the addict. We were surprised, as the addict had called us only because the peddler refused to give him a free puria,” said the official.
The helpline is also helping extortionists teach a lesson to traders who are straying from their clutches. “This trend is dangerous. We carry out raids on the basis of information we receive over the helpline. As a result, an innocent trader often has to face unnecessary harassment,” explained another official of the detective department.
Sleuths say they receive few calls from addicts who need help. “On an average, it’s three calls every two months. We send them to an NGO for de-addiction. But the figure is too low, and not what we expected when launching the helpline,” they admit.
“We are taking certain measures to strengthen the helpline,” said Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner, detective department. “People are still hesitant to contact us. We will have to boost their confidence. Whatever the loopholes are in the helpline, we will sort them out,” he added.