Gaurav Singh* was once a thief. He is an agile and lean guy, and has what he calls “haath ki safai” (skills). It made him a leader of a group of boys in his neighbourhood. When truck drivers stopped on the highway near his house in Samaypur Badli in North Delhi, near NH1, to take a leak, he would, along with his gang members, emerge from his hideout and hold a knife to the driver’s neck. Startled and threatened, the driver would be forced hand over all the cash he was carrying. “One time I looted 8.5 lakh rupees from a driver,” Yadav recalls boastfully. “Truck drivers that come from far carry a lot of cash on them. It is normal to collect 2-2.5 lakh on one loot.”
The 22-year old, was also a drug addict. Smack, chitta, ganja, nitrazepam tablets—they were all his daily fix. His journey into drug addiction began when he was 10. “Drugs make you brave,” Singh says. “When you are high, you can face anything.” Most of his highway robberies were conducted when he was as high as a kite, he recalls.
The first time he was apprehended (in 2013) by the police, he was 17. He was sent to a juvenile reform home at Majnu ka Tila for three months after which he went back to the highway. The robberies continued and his skirmishes with the police became more rampant. As did his foray into sex and drugs. “We would visit the girls (sex workers) at GTB Road or call call girls.” He tells us that one night at a GTB Road brothel costs anywhere between Rs 1,500-3,000. “Then there are the call girls that charge around Rs 15,000 for one time.”
Last year when Singh was arrested by police, he was taken to Tihar jail from Rohini Court. It was his first time in Tihar, also called bada (big) jail. The juvenile reform homes are referred to as baccha (children’s) jails. The world inside Tihar was new, and all the horror stories he had heard from others who had been in and out of prisons, were now coming true. On his first night inside he was asked by a fellow inmate to scrub the floor. When he refused, a fight broke out and the officials had to intervene.
So how did Singh, a drug addict, survive without drugs inside prison? “Sab milta hai (everything is available),” he says. How? “Madam, it is with the help of the officials, the guards, doctors, nodal officers and others.”
For instance, one day, Singh, who was in jail number 3 in Tihar, had a court date. One of his fellow inmates was already out on bail. The two had coordinated inside the prison. The fellow inmate met him on the court premises and handed him four small, finger-length packets. “The police guards are usually busy on their phones,” Singh tells me. “So when I noticed that he was not paying attention I swallowed the packets (kanchiyan)one by one.”
Of course a lot of care has to be taken if you’re smuggling drugs this way into a prison. “If you take a kanchi of smack and the packet unwraps inside your stomach, you can even die,” Singh says nonchalantly. He was used to smuggle all kinds of drugs using this method of swallowing small plastic-wrapped capsules. “If you crush the drug capsule and turn it into powder form, you can even carry almost 20-25 capsules like this in 3-4 kanchiyan.”
Singh has used this method so many times that he has become a pro. “I don’t use Surf (detergent) to vomit (to get out the packets floating in his stomach); but I used to drink almost two litres of full fat milk. It’s creamy and lubricates the throat well, and then I put two fingers inside my mouth and everything comes up.”
He has seen other inmates flushing out drugs from their system in the morning. And then picking the turd apart, taking out the plastic wrapped packets with drugs inside them with their bare hands.
Another method of getting your drug supply inside prison is by using your clout. “We also used to pay the guard.” Prison guards don’t undergo as rigorous a check before entering prison units as the prisoners themselves. “They bring in whatever we need in the soles of their shoes. I have even seen Android phones inside prisons,” he claims.
Even if you have ganja and smack brought in, how do you light them? Matches and lighters are not allowed inside prisons. “We get Mortein, the mosquito repellent. We short circuit a wire and keep Mortein there for a few seconds. It starts a spark. We also get cotton and oil for puja at the prison canteen. We use that cotton. It catches fire and we use the notebook paper that is also available for us to keep the small fire going.” Singh has also used the silver foil that covers achar (pickle) or Bournvita bottles for his smack.
“Sometimes the craving is so much that I used to wash clothes, get food, and clean floors for other inmates who I knew had drugs available,” Singh confesses. “Sometimes I would give my share of milk packets to someone who could give me some ganja.” Singh was in jail for a year and released earlier this year in April. He insists he is clean, having been to a rehab centre where he now volunteers. He says he wants to change.
“You don’t need to read a lot to learn a lot. In my one year of life in Tihar jail, I learnt so much about how the world works. Everyone is selfish. You’ve got to be selfish too,” he says.
*Names have been changed on request.
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