This International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, let’s take out some time to analyse our country’s “War on Drugs”.
While, many of us are too hooked on to America’s War on Drugs, it is about time we introspect what is going on in our own country!
It is a matter of real shame that even though Punjab has been struggling with drugs for decades now, many of us got to know about it through the Bollywood movie ‘Udta Punjab’, which was released a year ago.
Not even the sharpest researchers could have imagined the plight of the state that has lost it all to drugs, power, and pride. Although, the movie did help to spread awareness about the level of drug addiction that the state has been caught up in – take it from me, it was just a fragment of the actual dire straits that the people there are living with.
But, did we care enough? Probably not.
Does the government care enough? Absolutely not.
Today, the country is not only a contrite possessor of Udta Punjab, but also Udta Rajasthan, Udta Bangaluru, Udta Goa, Udta Haryana, Udti Delhi and the list goes on.
Put simply, today it is “Udta India”! But we are blatantly ignoring this fact.
What are we waiting for? Another movie?
The entire nation is high on drugs and we are nothing but mute spectators of this quandary that we are a part of!
According to the Narcotics Control Bureau’s 2015 Annual Report, 860 cases of opium seizure were reported in the country that year, and the amount of opium seized was 1687 kg. Also, 3931 heroin seizure cases were reported, through which the government seized 1416 kg of heroin. And there’s no sign that India’s ordeal with drugs is letting up. In the same year, Cannabis (Ganja) seizure cases were 8,130 and the quantity of cannabis taken into custody came out to be 94,403 kg.
Now, does the situation seem gruesome enough to you?
Just to remind you – these were the circumstances some two years back, and looking at the rise of drug abuse in the country, I am pretty sure that these figures would have increased by now.
Coming back to the statistics, the government also seized 3349 kg of Hashish or Charas in 2015, in 2295 cases.
And how can we forget about India’s love for cocaine?
The high-priced drug was seized in 100 cases and the amount so confiscated was 113 kg.
Strange? Shocking? Well, that’s some dose of truth for you!
My documentary on Punjab’s rampant drug dependence, “Fading Glory – Punjab, Hope Not Lost”, made me witness the ugly side of the once beautiful Punjab. After losing entire Punjab to drugs, it is disheartening to even envisage the condition of other states and the future of India.
As per a study conducted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE), Government of India, in 2015, about 76% opioid dependent individuals in Punjab were in the age group of 18 to 35 years. The study also exposed the ghastly truth that even if 80% of these drug addicts tried to come out of the malevolent trap of drugs, only about 35% of these addicts were able to get any kind of help or treatment for the same.
It is right that the previous government of Punjab may have crippled the state, but now that we have got a new government to take the people out of the maze of drugs, it is not easy. It will take at least 10 years’ time to bring the situation back to normalcy. Efforts, backed by the will to change Punjab’s face that drug has distorted, is needed the most at present.
A little far from Punjab, the state of Haryana is another prime example of a region that’s slowly being ruined by drugs. As per a survey conducted by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in association with the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre, New Delhi, in Haryana the use of cannabis among children was reported at an appalling 63.3%.
Imagine the situation of a state where children are being ruled by drugs. What could we hope for its future?
And that’s not what it is all about!
In 2014, a report by the Ministry of Social Justice revealed that Haryana even surpassed Punjab in the number of suicide cases caused by drug abuse. While 38 people committed suicide due to drug addiction in Punjab, in Haryana the number was as high as 86, that year.
A survey conducted by the Women and Child Development Department and AIIMS in 2016, exposed that there are 70,000 addicts on Delhi’s streets. Well, the city is bustling with not only immigrants, but also with drug addicts. And these addicts get inclined towards drugs, at as early as nine years of age.
But, we either snub them or turn a blind eye towards them. The question is – for how long? Until we find our own children being one of them?
The Delhi Aids Control Society, recently conducted a survey which revealed that the number of street children who have used any substance in the last one year came out to be 23,240. The results were not only shocking, but also pose serious questions about the country’s real progress – which is being made in the direction of drug addiction.
The survey stated that about 9,450 street children used alcohol; 5,600 used cannabis; 840 used heroin; and pharmaceutical opioids as well as sedatives each were used by 210 street children.
Particularly troubling is the fact that the government and the police officials, who were already unable to control the rising number of domestic drug peddlers, today have another major concern to address. The easy accessibility of Delhi has made it a transit point for international drug peddlers – worsening the already distressing situation of drug abuse in the country.
Ajmer, Alwar, Barmer, Bikaner, Churu, Hanumangarh, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Nagaur, Pali, Sirohi, and the bordered district – Sri Ganganagar, all these regions have one thing in common besides being a part of Rajasthan – their rising dependency on drugs. According to studies, as much as 15 to 20 percent of Rajasthan’s population, primarily rural, has been involved in some sort of substance abuse. About 60 to 70 percent of drug addicts in the state consume opium, and nearly 25 percent of them are said to consume heroin.
People’s love for doda here has let the state to a drug epidemic and the borders shared with Punjab and Pakistan have only deteriorated the situation further. With numbers of drug addicts alarmingly increasing with every passing day – Rajasthan is dreaded of becoming another hub of drugs soon.
While in the North, drugs have dampened the progress of Punjab and Rajasthan, in the North-East we have states like Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura which have been struggling with the free flow of various illicit drugs into the region.
Located in close vicinity of the two, infamous illicit opium producing areas in Asia – the Golden Crescent (Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan) and the Golden Triangle (Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand), states like Assam, Manipur and Mizoram, are some of the most vulnerable to drugs.
The Seven Sister States are finding it hard to restore their beauty, with drug crisis sinking deep into their roots, hollowing them from within.
Even if we shift our focus from the North-East to the Heart of India – Madhya Pradesh, the situation of drug abuse doesn’t take a shift as such. The Malwa region of the state has sustained its stature of being a hub of illegal opium trade – not something to be proud of – but still, the region makes sure that it stays atop of others. And it does.
With as much as 75 percent of the legal opium production taking place in Malwa’s Mandsaur, Neemuch and Ratlam districts, the illegal opium trade also making it big here isn’t a surprise. Perhaps, this is the reason why 85.65 kg of opium was seized in Madhya Pradesh in 2015 alone.
When it comes to the highest number of drug-related suicides in the country, it is Maharashtra which tops the list with 1,372 deaths, a 2016 report by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) revealed.
While in Pune, approximately 3.9 crore worth drugs have been seized in the preceding two years, the situation of drug dependence in Mumbai is worse than ever before. Being a cosmopolitan city, Mumbai is the centre of Page 3 parties, where drugs have become a deadly pandemic.
From well-established to aspiring models, actors, singers, choreographers, and several B-town enthusiasts, there are many who are clutched in the deadly claws of drugs. What’s even worse is that the police officials who are meant to keep a check on drug trafficking, have been found supporting the same in the city of dreams. In March 2015, the Mumbai Crime Branch arrested police constable Dharma Kalokhe, who was posted at the Marine Drive police station. 100 kg drugs were seized from his locker at the police station and also from his house in Satara district.
When saviours become traffickers, little could we hope for obtaining that much-needed freedom from drug dependence.
If there is any other thing that Goa is highly famous for, apart from its exquisite beaches and hippy culture, then it has to be its rave parties.
At the beginning of my research on India’s drug abuse problem, I was warned by some highly influential people, including Mr KPS Gill, that messing with Goa’s drug situation will be a clear-cut invitation to death.
Most of the drug peddlers here become active when the tourism season beings, which is somewhere around November. And, drug dealing gets to its all-time high around New Year celebrations – which attracts millions of domestic as well as international tourists to Goa.
And, they don’t call Goa the hub of drugs for no reason. In 2015, heroin amounting to 87 kg, and Hashish amounting to 293.79 kg were seized from Goa.
Be it Bengaluru or Manipal, Karnataka is getting engulfed into drugs and there seems to be no rescue. Children as young as eleven years of age are getting addicted to all sorts of substances. In 2015 alone, 7.19 kg of cocaine was seized from the state.
But, cocaine isn’t the only problem. The youth here is being lured by ganja as well, which is one of the most popular drugs in India. The ever-increasing number of white-collared professionals and students in the city have taken it to a road from where there seems to be no coming back.
India’s Silicon Valley’s talent is being awashed with drugs.
Yet, there is no Messiah to save it.
A look at Kerala wouldn’t unfold a much-changed setting. The escalating number of minors landing at drug de-addiction centres, unveils the mania that the most literate state of India has been possessed of.
In Kozhikode, 140 minors took treatment for drug abuse in 2016 alone, which was a minacious upsurge of 100 percent from the year 2015.
Besides ganja, heroin and cocaine, the people of this state are hooked on to psychotropic drugs too, which include tablets and injections. They are gradually making their way to rehabilitation centres. And nobody’s there to stop.
India’s flawed Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act
The NDPS Act, or the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, deters drug use and trafficking in India. All the punitive measures under this Act have shown how flawed the policy is. Even after exercising it for more than three decades, consumption of illegal drugs and their trafficking is increasing in the country by leaps and bounds.
In truth, this policy of criminalisation and incarceration is of little to no help when it comes to reducing drug dependence and Portugal is a prime example of this.
About seventeen years back, Portugal reformed its drug laws and decriminalised all drugs, from weed to heroin. By helping the society rise above the stigma of drug-addiction as a criminal activity, the Portuguese government did something that India will only achieve if it follows Portugal’s suit and treads on the path of decriminalisation at the earliest.
In Portugal, anyone found with less than a 10-day supply of drugs, is sent to a three-person Commission for the Dissuasion of Drug Addiction. This commission is made up of a lawyer, a doctor and a social worker – all working together to understand the problems of drug addict and to show them a way out. Even though drug dealers are still imprisoned, anyone who is caught with less than a 10-day supply of any type of drug receives mandatory medical treatment. This no courtroom, no jail approach of drug users has helped the society there to seek help whenever needed – without being labelled as a criminal or law offender.
By treating drug addiction as a moral problem, rather than a health problem, the country has set an example for all those countries who are waging a war on drugs.
Winning the War on Drugs – Can India do that?
While there are countries like Portugal, who have successfully come out of the webs of social stigmas and taboos, India is still, way, way behind. Here, not only drugs, but even alcohol is treated as a social anathema, with people refraining from talking about it out in the open.
But, what we fail to understand as a society is the fact that addicts need support and care, not societal dismissal and denunciation. Ignominy and derisory access to the right treatment act as the biggest roadblocks in quashing the prevailing drug crisis in the country.
Whoever gets into the circuit of drugs needs proper counselling, and should get assistance – not just from the government, but also from the society and mainly from immediate family and friends. Acceptance and empathy are critically important to win this war on drugs.
Celebrities like Sanjay Dutt and others who have successfully battled drug addiction should have come forward to create awareness about drug abuse as a social concern. They should educate others about their fight with drugs. There is a grave need of having a brand ambassador for this cause and to give it the hype it deserves, as it is a cause which girdles the entire nation – not just Punjab or Goa.
This issue is not an issue to be swept under the carpet. It needs to be tackled at a macro level. Rather than focusing on merely catching drug peddlers, it’s about time we started to think about drug addicts and provided them the attention they deserve.
After all, this is an issue concerning the youth of the country, the future of the country, and it can’t be brushed aside. Not anymore!
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NEWSD and NEWSD does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.