No drugs, Goa peddlers sell masks, vegetables

4 months ago 32
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PANAJI: Lockdown has created

different difficulties

for different people. While migrant labourers, for example, have been left without work and forced to return home, halt in tourism activities in Goa has prompted drug peddlers and addicts to look at alternative sources of income.
These are bad times for most. Those who peddled drugs on the coastal belt for a living, or made money through tourism-related activities for their own needs, including consumption of drugs, are now doing

odd jobs

.
Some have taken up jobs at car washing centres, few have started selling vegetables and fruits, while some have started doing menial jobs like labour at construction sites, according to Dr

Ravindra Patil

, medical officer at Mapusa district hospital’s Drug Treatment Centre. “Two brothers who have been regular at the centre have started making face masks,” Dr Patil told TOI.
The Mapusa district hospital operates an opioid substitution therapy (OST) which helps in the rehabilitation of addicts and the last three months of lockdown were the most difficult for everyone.
“I am glad they took up whatever alternative source of income came their way. Some are even working as construction workers. We are happy to see that they are happy with their work,” he said.
Since inception, the trend at the drug treatment is clear. During monsoon, the number of people enrolling for OST increases, while numbers take a major dip once the tourism season is up and running. The trend, according to Dr Patil, is directly linked to the flow of drugs in Goa. It’s always higher when the tourism season is at its peak.
According to numbers provided to TOI, the centre had 25-30 persons regularly visiting the centre prior to March. The number touched 60 during April and May when a national lockdown was in place. For now, there are 68 persons on Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) for abuse of heroin, while another 40-50 persons are undergoing a different programme implemented through the

National Aids Control Organisation

(NACO).
“In May, we ran out of medicine as the number of persons opting for MMT increased. We also saw some dealers visiting us during lockdown obviously because the supply of drugs had dried,” he said.
With the lockdown now eased, normal activity has resumed at the centre. Elsewhere, most continue with their lockdown jobs and seem happy, despite earning less than what they did during their regular duties. For those thriving on tourism-related activities, though, the wait continues.

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