Is ‘Brand Mangaluru’ getting hit following the recent drug cases against medicos?

A total of 22 people, including doctors, were arrested recently in different drug cases, denting the image of the city as an education hub.


Published Jan 28, 2023 | 3:05 PMUpdatedJan 28, 2023 | 3:31 PM

Being a highly prestigious career that calls for academic excellence and success, the stress being experienced by medical students is high. (Creative Commons)

Mangaluru, a major educational hub in South India, has of late been in the news for all the wrong reasons, with the arrest of a few medical practitioners and medical students on charges of drug use.

The city was rocked by charges of cannabis use and peddling by medical students and a few doctors.

A total of 22 people, including doctors, were arrested by the police recently in different cases and the wide media attention it received considerably dented the image of the city as a premier education hub.

Mangaluru has five universities, seven medical colleges, and over a dozen engineering colleges, besides a number of arts and science colleges where students from different parts of the country, especially from Kerala, are pursuing their studies.

Drug-peddling medicos?

It came as a rude shock when nine medical students, including a doctor and a surgeon, were arrested on charges of consuming and peddling cannabis on 10 January.

Another nine medicos, including two doctors, were arrested for peddling and consumption of cannabis 10 days later. Four medical students were held in two drug cases in between these two incidents.

Anxious parents from across the country were in disbelief after hearing the news of doctors and medical students becoming drug peddlers.

Though peddling may not be the exact word to describe their act, it became clear in the initial investigations that the exchange of drugs has been taking place among them, a police official said.

The student population in the city and suburbs is estimated to be around 50,000, with most of them coming from different parts of the country.

Also Read: 2 policemen suspended for planting ‘marijuana’ twig on youth

Driven by stress

Dr G Shreekumar Menon, former director general of the National Academy of Customs, Indirect Taxes and Narcotics & Multi-Disciplinary School of Economic Intelligence, said that though not many studies are available to assess the extent of the drug problem, going by the seizures effected by the police, a drug chain is visible among the students to a large extent.

While the students are obviously reluctant to divulge any details, management of educational institutions areev even more tight-lipped about the issue, fearing loss of image.

Reduced admissions would mean a huge setback for the institutions in a highly competitive space.

Being a highly prestigious career that calls for academic excellence and success, the stress being experienced by medical students is high.

Stress and aspiration for success are the reasons for the high burnout rate among medical students and physicians, weighed in Dr Menon.

The easy availability of alcohol, marijuana, psychedelic drugs, tranquilizers, and opioids, is an irresistible temptation for many to experiment with drugs.

What the experts say

Experts say that imparting education about the effects of substance abuse is a must among the student community. This education, combined with classes on self-care and coping with stress can be helpful for students and alleviate any drug abuse on campus.

It is quite possible that substance abuse among medical students may be more widespread than revealed in the recent past. This has implications on the safety of students and patients, and ultimately on the integrity of the medical colleges themselves.

Experts believe that the present police action only on some medical students and doctors could have been done maintaining confidentiality and privacy.

Sensational publicity can have major repercussions on the city’s status as an educational hub. Every agency has to act with restraint, maturity, and foresight, they say.

Also Read: Why are junior doctors stressed and dying by suicide?

Damaging Brand Mangaluru

Mangaluru Bar Association Vice-President Manoraj Rajeeva questioned the manner in which the police probed the drug case involving the medicos.

While the stringent police action against drug trafficking is commendable, the case involving those who consume drugs is not being probed in a fair manner, he said.

As per Section 64A of the 1985 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act, those who have consumed drugs have exemption from legal action, he said.

He stated that there was no need to send them to judicial custody if they are willing to go to rehabilitation centres.

Rajeeva wondered why the police department has not taken steps in this direction. He also resented the police action of providing photographs of the accused to the media.

He said that such acts not only affect the families of the accused, but also ‘Brand Mangaluru’ with the image of the medical education institutions getting hit.

Rajeeva wanted a high court-monitored probe or an investigation by central agencies into the cases.

He also demanded that the Karnataka government order a confidential online survey of all students studying medical and allied health programmes.

Professor and forensic expert Dr Mahabalesh Shetty also said that screen tests showing positive results does not necessarily confirm drug consumption.

The results have to be confirmed by sending the samples for further FSL and CFL tests within 24 hours, as sometimes even passive smoking gives positive results, he said.

Also Read: Three more, including doctor, arrested in Mangaluru drug case

Zero-tolerance policy

Meanwhile, Kasturba Medical College (KMC) in Mangaluru has terminated the services of two doctors who were arrested on 10 January on charges of drug peddling and consumption. This was conveyed to Mangaluru Police Commissioner N Shashi Kumar by KMC Dean B Unnikrishnan.

The commissioner said that the dean informed him that the college has a zero-tolerance policy towards drugs and would extend all cooperation to the authorities concerned in the war against drug abuse.

The police have arrested 29 people in recent weeks in its drive against drug abuse in the city, which include 22 persons from the medical fraternity, Kumar said.

The police commissioner said that they are probing into the source of the drugs and how they were being distributed. The police are probing contacts of the main accused in the case, he said.