For years now, Shashikala Ramesh Patankar—aka Baby—was a prominent fixture in the drug peddling circuit of India’s financial capital. And, in recent times, her speciality was supplying a party drug called mephedrone, which also goes by street names including drone, M-Cat, Bubbles—and Meow Meow.
Although a powerful stimulant with an effect that is described by some as a “cross between cocaine and ecstasy,” mephedrone is typically far more affordable than both the drugs. At the end of the last decade, it became one of the most popular drugs in the UK, before it was banned in 2010. It was added to India’s list of prohibited drugs in March 2015.
After evading arrest for decades, the 54-year-old drug lord’s empire finally started crumbling after a Mumbai Police constable Dharmaraj Kalokhe—apparently also her paramour—was arrested last month for stocking up over 120 kg of mephedrone, some of it stashed in his locker at Marine Drive police station.
That triggered a manhunt for Patankar, involving some 100 police personnel, who spread out across Mumbai, Gujarat and even Delhi. On April 22, Baby was pulled out of a bus coming into Mumbai—and arrested.
This, however, isn’t her first run in with Mumbai’s cops: She was arrested in 2001, reportedly for peddling marijuana.
But most often, Patankar was able to give the police the slip, despite living in a four-room house in a south Mumbai slum that the authorities knew of. Accessible only through narrow lanes and hemmed in by shanties, informants were likely to be well positioned to tip off the drug lord about incoming police raids.
Apart from her slum dwelling, her properties and other assets in the city reportedly amounted to some Rs100 crore. These included a booze shop, flats in Mumbai and even commercial real estate in Pune.
And much of this was purportedly amassed with the help of her deep networks within the city’s police force; at one point in her drug-running career, Patankar even worked as a police informant. Some police official even suspect that constable Kalokhe’s arrest came after a tip-off from Patankar after the two had a dispute.
Still, Mumbai’s Meow Meow madame may have already done serious damage.
Mumbai’s police reckons that nearly 80% of drug addicts in the city’s rehab centres are mephedrone users, and massive quantities of the substance seem to be doing the rounds. Last month, for instance, authorities seized 400kgs of mephedrone in a series of raids in Maharashtra.