Glamour girls as drug peddlers and traffickers


Dr G Shreekumar Menon

It is generally considered that drug trafficking organizations are predominantly operated by men and that the role played by women in drug trafficking is very limited. Globally, the majority of drug traffickers are men, but there is little research into this aspect. However, current trends worldwide suggest that girls are getting more involved in drug trafficking.

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Fashionistas, models, film stars and starlets are hogging headlines in the media for their active involvement in peddling of narcotic drugs in hush-hush gatherings, rave parties and among elite sections of society. As recreational drug use popularity is soaring among all sections of the population, many are tempted to make quick and easy money and lead a luxurious lazy life style.

Illicit drugs (heroin, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines and ecstasy) remain the most profitable, hence trafficking and peddling these drugs is very popular and pays handsomely. Illicit revenues are shared by a plurality of organised crime groups and criminal actors. The use of business facilitators and of legitimate companies to cover illicit trade is also widespread. The poly-crime nature of criminal groups in different parts of the country, by migrant labour expands the economies of scale among illicit markets, reduces groups’ operational costs and increases their profit margins. Illicit proceeds are preferred to be invested in bars and restaurants, construction, wholesale and retail trade (especially of food products and clothing), transportation, hotels and real estate.

The film and fashion industry are overcrowded with too many aspirants dependent on agencies to give them work, low remuneration for freshers, and the inability of many aspirants to balance their personal and professional life. Many resort to drug consumption for relief from stress burden and many others take to drug-peddling as a back-up career plan, as the remuneration is attractive. Further their close contacts in the industry gives them accessibility and credibility than any other ordinary trafficker or peddler. But these professions are very unique as there is excessive focus and importance on appearance and fitness, inner well-being and financial stability. This is a very short-term profession and a very fast-moving life. Attrition rate is very high and most simply fade away from public memory very quickly. Thereafter many drift into trafficking and peddling drugs as a source of livelihood and for looking after family needs.

It is generally considered that drug trafficking organizations are predominantly operated by men and that the role played by women in drug trafficking is very limited. Globally, the majority of drug traffickers are men, but there is little research into this aspect. However, current trends worldwide suggest that girls are getting more involved in drug trafficking. Girls may have diverse roles in a drug trafficking network, from a central role in a drug network or trafficking group to a significant or intermediary role, or an insignificant role along the drug supply chain. Studies have shown “a crossover between drug trafficking, drug use, prostitution and trafficking in persons. In those studies, situations have been documented of women becoming involved in drug trafficking to sustain their own drug consumption, of sex workers smuggling drugs and of women who were victims of trafficking in persons or trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation being forced to smuggle drugs. (UNODC Report- Women and Drugs – World Drug Report 2018)”.

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In many of the recent drug cases booked against Bollywood stars, the role of many young actresses has come to limelight. In the death of Bollywood star Sushanth Singh Rajput, the role of an actress has been outlined by the investigating agency, in the Remand Application. It reveals that the young actress used to "procure drugs for Sushant Singh Rajput for consumption purposes". It also says that she used to "manage the finances for drug procurement" along with Sushant Singh Rajput. She was in the know about "every delivery and payment" and sometimes confirmed payment and even the choice of drugs. She has revealed the names of 15 other celebrity Bollywood stars who are into drug sourcing and consumption. The actress is being investigated by multiple investigating agencies - besides the NCB, she is also being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the economic aspect is being looked into by the Enforcement Directorate. Another seven actresses have been identified, who all are connected in the drug-circuit. Further over 25 celebrities have been named from the industry including actors, producers and directors for their alleged involvement in the drug cartel.

Fashion models have been named as involved in the ongoing ‘Drugs-on-cruise’ case, apart from many other young actors and actresses.

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In many of the recent drug cases booked against Bollywood stars, the role of many young actresses has come to limelight

There is the famous case of model Gitanjali Nagpal, who because of her drug addiction was reduced to begging for food. Heavy partying, drug and liquor addiction destroyed her glamourous career as a popular model.

Many Indian actresses have been caught abroad for drug related offences. A yesteryear actress and her husband were arrested in Kenya for drug trafficking, by the United States (US) Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), in the year 2017. The duo is also wanted by Thane police in an alleged Rs 2,000-crore international Ephedrine supply racket. Ephedrine is a chemical used to manufacture methamphetamine, a party drug, and was being diverted to a Kenya-based drug cartel.

It is not only in Bollywood, but in the South Indian film industry, involvement in drugs is pretty high. Ragini Dwivedi was arrested by Bangalore City Police on charges of association with an international drug peddling racket that revolved around supplying psychedelic drugs to customers at big-ticket events and rave parties.

She was involved in promoting cricket leagues like CCL and Karnataka Premier League, and was a brand ambassador for the Ballari Tuskers. She has modelled for top Indian designers. As a model, she was the runner-up of the 2008 Femina Miss India South contest and won the Richfeel Femina Miss Beautiful Hair award at the 2009 Pantaloons Femina Miss India contest.

Actress Sanjjanaa Galrani was accused by the Central Crime Branch, Bangalore of procuring and supplying drugs to people who attended high-profile parties in Bengaluru.

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Drug-peddling is a high-risk activity and male and female drug-peddlers confront different types of risks in their trade

Many young girls and boys are very keen on film and modelling careers. Many of the film and fashion institutes are full of vibrant young teens looking forward to a glamourous career, but it is very important that both parents and the institutions educate them about the peculiar pitfalls lying in their path. Occupational hazards are too many, especially for young girls. One wrong step and their careers are finished forever. Indulging in drugs, whether for self-consumption or distribution are all fraught with complicated legal repercussions. Drug-peddling is a high-risk activity and male and female drug-peddlers confront different types of risks in their trade. The “risk environment” of drug markets comprises not only the individual actor-peddler’s decisions and their outcomes but also a whole host of connected contextual and social factors, including legal and punitive frameworks, social networks, socioeconomic disparities, and community norms. The glamour girls pursuing drug distribution are not on the same level as street drug-peddlers. However, the risks are almost similar – informants, disgruntled customers and law enforcement. Glamour-girls operate within a closed circle of co-stars, and high-level film professionals like directors, cinematographers and producers. To reduce the visibility of transactions, isolated resorts, exclusive boutique hotels, private guest houses and cruise ships, are chosen. Many ambitious girls nurture goals of carving out exclusive niches, in order to accumulate riches and material possessions. However, the drug supply market is male dominated and the girls have to depend on the men for continuous supply of drugs. Glamour-girls operate in a sexually permissive environment, hence sexual exploitation is inevitable, and their participation can slot them in various legal definitions like trading sex, survival sex, and transactional sex, which affects their film or modelling career. In conjunction with sexual exploitation, other forms of nonsexual trauma, such as physical and emotional abuse, are also important risk factors to consider. Hence it is very important that education about the deleterious effects of drugs be included as a part and parcel of the curriculum. Every aspirant wanting to enter the glamour and entertainment industry needs to realize that “Addiction isn’t about using drugs. It’s about what the drug does to your life (Enock Maregesi).

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