RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- FIGHTING DRUG MENACE
The International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking Day is observed annually on 26 June. The decision to mark the day was taken on 7 December 1987 through a resolution of the United Nations General Assembly in order to strengthen global action and cooperation to achieve its aim of making the international society free of drug abuse. This year’s theme ‘Health for Justice, Justice for Health’ emphasises that justice and health are “two sides of the same coin” when it comes to addressing the problems associated with drugs. In February 2019, AIIMS submitted its report “Magnitude of Substance Use in India” that was sponsored by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The study found that around 5 crore Indians reported to have used cannabis and opiods at the time of the survey. About 60 lakh people are estimated to need help for their opioid use problems and nationally, it is estimated that there are about 8.5 lakh people who inject drugs. Of the total cases estimated by the report, more than half of them are contributed by states like Assam, Delhi, Haryana, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim and Uttar Pradesh. Punjab ranks consistently at the top or in the top five in many of the surveys conducted.
India is vulnerable to narcotic drug trafficking as it is located between two largest Opium producing regions of the world i.e. Golden Crescent in the west and Golden Triangle in the east. Drug trafficking and abuse also pose serious threat to our societies.
The most common drugs of abuse are ‘ganja’, ‘hashish’, ‘opium’ and ‘heroin’. The abuse of pharmaceutical preparations like ‘buprenorphine’, codeine based cough syrups and painkillers like ‘proxivon’ has also assumed serious proportions. In certain regions of the country, drug abuse has already become a severe social-economic problem affecting the vulnerable age groups.
What has the government done in this regard?
The Government has taken several policy and other initiatives to deal with drug trafficking problem.
- It constituted Narco-Coordination Centre (NCORD) in November, 2016 and revived the scheme of “Financial Assistance to States for Narcotics Control”.
- In 2017, the government approved new Reward Guidelines with increased quantum of reward for interdiction or seizure of different illicit drugs.
- For effective coordination with foreign countries, India has signed 37 Bilateral Agreements/Memoranda of Understanding.
- Narcotics Control Bureau has been provided funds for developing a new software i.e. Seizure Information Management System (SIMS) which will create a complete online database of drug offences and offenders.
- The government has constituted a fund called “National Fund for Control of Drug Abuse” to meet the expenditure incurred in connection with combating illicit traffic in Narcotic Drugs; rehabilitating addicts, and educating public against drug abuse, etc.
- The government is also conducting National Drug Abuse Survey to measure trends of drug abuse in India through Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment with the help of National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre of AIIMS.
- The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, prohibit a person to produce, possess, sell, purchase, transport, store, and/or consume any narcotic drug or psychotropic substance. The NDPS Act has since been amended thrice – in 1988, 2001 and 2014. The Act extends to the whole of India and it applies also to all Indian citizens outside India and to all persons on ships and aircraft registered in India.
Status of drug de-addiction centres:
- Rampant irregularities and torture of inmates are prevalent at New Delhi’s de-addiction centres.
- An inspection report submitted by Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) revealed how inmates are being ill-treated, subjected to sexual and physical torture, asked to perform sexual favours, and not allowed to contact their families.
- Most of the centres do not have adequate infrastructure, including toilets and ventilation.
- The report also alleged some inmates have allegedly died from the torture they were subjected to.
- The right of basic human dignity of persons desperately in need of care and treatment is being violated with impunity.
- Violations of fundamental rights to life, liberty and dignity, as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution.
- There are unauthorised and illegally run centres, charging money and subjecting such persons to inhumane and degrading treatment.
Ill Effects of Drug abuse:
- Drug abuse seriously affects our health, security, peace and development.
- It can increase risk of HIV, hepatitis and t
- Drug dependence, low self esteem, hopelessness can lead to criminal action and even suicidal tendencies.
- Massive amount of life is lost due to abusive drug use.
- Higher risk of unintentional injuries, accidents, domestic violence incidents, medical problems, and death.
- Illicit drugs may pose various risks for pregnant women and their babies.
Concerns / Challenges:
- The alarming increase of alcohol and drug addiction.
- Drug abuse has become common in children and adolescents and causes serious ramifications on their physical and mental health and overall wellbeing.
- The non-availability of government sponsored de-addiction centres is paving way for private centres to exploit patients.
- Instead of medical care, “punishments” are meted out to patients, inflicting severe torture and, in some cases, causing death.
- People seem to forget that drug users are human beings first. By using drugs a person doesn’t cease to be human.
- Those who become chronic drug abusers have rare chances of complete de-addiction.
- Proximity to the largest producers of heroin – the Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent (Afghanistan-Pakistan-Iran) -has made India’s border vulnerable to drug trafficking.
- Prevention and solid support are the ways in which drug abuse can be dealt with.
- Prevention programmes involving families, schools and the immediate communities are important in this regard.
- Government must notify minimum standards for running de-addiction centres.
- Fast track courts.
- Integrating drug de-addiction centre’s with rehabilitation centres.
- Unlicensed centres and those committing human rights violations must be liable to closure.
- A chapter on the impact of drug abuse should be included in school curriculum so that children understand how addiction destroys lives of people.
- Focused sensitisation programmes on drug abuse in schools and a substance abuse policy could go a long way in curbing the menace.
- Parents must consult specialists in case there is change in behaviour of their children as it could be signs of drug abuse.