Drugs are a growing menace in India; from 2011 to 2013, the country saw a 455 per cent increase in drug hauls, according to information released by the government. Some 105,173 tonnes of illegal drugs were confiscated during this time period, which is testimony to the rise in drug abuse and the illicit trafficking problem which affects some 18 per cent of the world’s population aged 15-64.
The World Drug Report notes that India is an important market for illegal drugs manufactured in South-East and South-West Asia; some 10.7 million Indians use illicit drugs (8.7 are dependent on cannabis and 2 million use opiates). Interestingly, the first-ever official exercise to ascertain the nature of
the drug problem (at the behest of the Supreme Court) has revealed that only 16 lakh kg of the 51.4 lakh kg of narcotics seized in India over the past 15 years, have been destroyed.
Some 23 per cent of the haul hailed from Rajasthan, 9.2 lakh kg was seized in Punjab, 8.04 lakh kg in Madhya Pradesh, and 6.57 lakh kg in Tamil Nadu. In Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, not even 5 per cent of the confiscated drugs were burned. These statistics were presented to the Supreme Court recently, as the result of a 2012 appeal by the Central government against the acquittal of an accused individual whose defence had been the inability of the prosecution to produce the opium seized from him, or to show that the drugs had been destroyed.
The Supreme Court noted that the states had been violating the guidelines set out by the Union Finance Ministry regarding the disposal of confiscated drugs. This type of behavior amounts to a breach of trust, as well as a violation of the right of the people to be protected by their elected government. The Court noted that “there cannot be anything worse” than governmental greed or negligence which resulted in a direct threat to the health of so many youth in India.
The Court then ordered a thorough investigation into the amount of drugs seized and how they were stored and destroyed. All information gathered was then to sent to the high courts, which investigated the data, made relevant enquiries and submitted final reports to the Supreme Court. The non-destruction of drugs is in direct violation of the NDPS Act, which states that seized drugs should be destroyed soon after seizure following the specific procedures set out by the government.
Mizoram, Punjab and Manipur are among the states in which people are most vulnerable to drug addiction. The proximity of these states close to the Golden Triangle (Thailand, Laos and Myanmar) and the Golden Crescent (Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran) is one reason for the dire statistics; some 48,209 tonnes of drugs were seized in Mizoram over the past four years, while 29,064 tonnes were seized in Punjab. Some of these drugs include amphetamines, LSD, heroin, ketamine, hashish, marijuana, MDMA, cocaine, opium and morphine.
In so far as drug trafficking cases are concerned, Punjab is the number one culprit, with over 21,500 cases registered in the last four years. In addition to ensuring that seized drugs are destroyed, more needs to be done to address addiction, through the provision of more rehabilitation programmes for those seeking to quit addiction. Studies show that some 12 per cent of drug addicts are aged under 15; 31 per cent are aged 16-25 and 56 per cent are aged 25-35. Clearly, the issue is one that strikes at the heart of our youth.
Therefore, greater awareness and access to treatment are sorely needed. Addiction is not only a problem for addicts, but for their families, law enforcers and local communities. Often, the cost of rehab is beyond the economic means of families, who are forced to treat family members on their own, without the appropriate facilities or medications.
HIV is an issue which is strongly related to addiction; over 2.4 million people in India are living with this virus, with injecting drug users representing almost 10 per cent of those affected. HIV is highly stigmatised problem in India, with many patients hiding their status so as to avoid social stigma. The key to battling both problems lies in increased awareness, due diagnosis and better treatment opportunities. Together, we can work to remove the stigma associated with addiction and HIV, and provide appropriate treatment for those living with or trying to overcome these diseases.
*Freelance writer. Further reading: