PANAJI: Goa Tourism minister Manohar Azgaonkar said the State of Goa has failed to stop the drug trade in the state. “We all – government, politicians, media, police – have failed to stop it,” he said. “I also want matka to be stopped, but compared to the drug menace, it’s a far less important issue for me,” he said in reply to a question during a press conference on Monday.
On Friday, the North Goa police, in a major matka raid, seized Rs 59 lakh and arrested a few persons operating from residential property in Morjim.
While Azgaonkar said the police have to be “strong” to stop matka, he reiterated that he doesn’t want to speak about matka and he perceives it to be a lesser evil than drugs. However, he said, “matka can be stopped if the people are united”.
Asked why matka continues to flourish, Azgaonkar told the reporters to “seek answers from (leader of opposition) Chandrakant ‘Babu’ Kavlekar” – a reference to a case pending against Kavlekar.
On the drugs issue, Azgaonkar said the menace has penetrated Morjim, which is part of Pernem constituency represented by Congress MLA Dayanand Sopte. “Why can’t he stop the sale of drugs in Morjim?” Azgaonkar said.
The tourism minister then took potshots at the Congress MLA, who reportedly stated that matka is supported by one particular North Goa MLA. Azgaonkar said people should inform the police about the persons they know who sell drugs. “We have to be alert to end this menace,” he said. “The CM and all the MLAs are against drugs. Goans have to be united to end the problem.”
Asserting that all suggestions to tackle the drug menace are welcome, Azgaonkar said, “There will be no compromise on the drug issue”. “Goan families are getting destroyed by drugs,” he said. “I have repeatedly told police to deal sternly with the drug trade.”
Azgaonkar’s comments come days after an industrial plot owned by Goa North BJP General Secretary Vasudev Parab was raided by the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) and 100 kgs of ketamine or the date rape drug valued at Rs 5 crore was seized by a shed which Parab had illegally rented out to a third party. The DRI raids were part of an inter-state operation where about 310 kgs of ketamine was seized from Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa totally valued at around Rs 40 crore.
Azgaonkar is an MLA from the local Goa Forward Party (GFP) which lent support to the Manohar Parrikar-led BJP to form the government in Goa. Another senior BJP minister Francis D’souza from North Goa had lambasted his colleague MLA, Michael Lobo a few days earlier alleging that drugs and prostitution were rampant in Calangute and Candolim – the constituency he represents.