Many cities in India getting ‘Narcopolis’ tag

By Dr G Shreekumar Menon/

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June 26 is universally observed as ‘United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking

drug abuse
Representation image | Mathrubhumi

The National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) and the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), has identified 272 districts in India with high rate of drug abuse. In every State, important drug affected districts have been identified.

In Kerala, the districts of Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Idukki, Malappuram and Kozhikode have been identified as having high rate of drug abuse. 18 out of 22 Punjab State districts figure in the list, which is quite alarming. Alcohol, cannabis, heroin and opium emerged as the most common drugs abused. The majority of respondents were abusing alcohol (43.9%), followed by cannabis (11.6%), heroin (11.1%) and opium (8.6%). Very few reported abuses of other drugs like propoxyphene, barbiturates, hallucinogens and inhalants. A few states contributed large numbers of young drug abusers i.e.: those 'below 20 years' of age. These young abusers were mostly from Mizoram (37.9%), Jammu and Kashmir (18.5%) and Nagaland (16.7%). Older subjects i.e.: those 'above 40 years,' were more frequently reported from Tamil Nadu (45.8%), Kerala (44.8%), Goa (41.7%), Pondicherry, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh (39% each). A Nasha Mukt Bharat Annual Action Plan for 2020-21 has been launched, which would focus on these 272 most affected districts. The Action Plan has the following components: Awareness generation programmes; Focus on Higher Educational institutions, University Campuses and Schools; Community outreach and identification of dependent population; Focus on Treatment facilities in Hospital settings; and Capacity Building Programmes for Service Provider.

June 26 is universally observed as the ‘United Nations International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking’. Governments, communities, organizations, institutions and individuals, join wholeheartedly to spread awareness about the deleterious effects of drugs on mankind. Based on these awareness campaigns, suggestions are frequently aired pointing out the need for expanded surveillance, education and programming responsive to local requirements.

Dimensions of drug markets keep constantly changing, like, for example, opening up of new airports both national and international, sea and coastal shipping services, law enforcement, political involvement and corruption, internet connectivity, financing of illegal drug trade, all impact drug trafficking and consumption. Illegal drug markets, trafficking patterns, and consumption are shaped by multiple factors- local and broader economic, political, social, tourism and criminal justice systems. But most drug markets are hidden, secretive and expensive, and are functioning on connections between friends and associates. The supply is often erratic, unreliable, and depends on the peddler. Nevertheless, there are multiple drug networks functioning in any geographical area, to cater to the requirements of different segments of the populace, and is facilitated by increased globalization, development, migration, and widespread social connections. The social landscape of our urban clusters is shaping drug markets and propelling drug consumption into new regions and consumers. The markets are also operating and thriving with fake drugs, adulterated drugs, and low-purity drugs. Peddlers and local consumers are engaged in sourcing drugs from numerous contacts, creating multiple opportunities for adulteration along the supply chain. Students generally pool resources to purchase drugs.

Societies understand the above threats, and unconsciously mobilize non-governmental agencies and organizations to adopt a ‘whole of society’ approach. Typically, all elements come together, governmental and nongovernmental organizations to spread awareness about ill-effects of drug-abuse. Similarly link up with international, national and regional groups occur to form a ‘whole of international society’ strategy to counter the illicit drug trade and consumption.

However, the drug trade continues to thrive across the globe. New organizations, groups, and networks are being formed to evade detection by enforcement agencies. The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) detected a drug network that functions under the code name 'Kasaragod Network' and supplies narcotic drugs illegally to Middle Eastern countries from India. Officials at Qatar airport arrest at least 10 to 15 Indians every month on the accusation of possessing drugs with them. Most of the arrested belong to the said ‘Kasaragod Network’. They reside in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kerala and Bengaluru. They keep in touch with one another through Voice Internet Protocol (VOIP). Around 100 people are working throughout the country for this network. At present the members of this network reside in places like Wayanad in Kerala, Madikeri, Mangaluru, Kodgau, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Goa and New Delhi. This gang is smuggling the narcotics through six to seven airports of the country.

United News of India dated April 13,2021 reports that Kochi is in race to becoming a hub of drugs. Kochi City Police registered 368 drug cases, and arrested 406 people in the first three months of 2021. MDMA and LSD are being increasingly used by youngsters, both boys and girls.

In February 2021, the Childline in Malappuram district brought to light a high-profile drugs-and-sex racket which lured schoolgirls through Instagram. The racketeers were targeting schoolgirls by befriending them through Instagram. A 14-year-old girl from a well-to-do family was made a drug addict and raped by several people. The girl told the Police that she was given Ganja first, then Hashish oil, and Cocaine, and was raped in her house, while her family was asleep. According to officials of Childline, the girl’s case is just a tip of the iceberg and more girls have fallen in the trap and are fearing to come forward. Even, as on 1st June 2021, there are news reports of youngsters across the State consuming party drugs, peddling of which is rampant in Malappuram District.

Thiruvananthapuram, Ernakulam and Kozhikode cities figure in the list of 127 vulnerable cities identified by the Union Ministry of Social Justice, with acute prevalence on drug dependency. Realizing the gravity of the problem on hand, the Kerala High Court has alerted the Central and State enforcement agencies to ensure that the drug supply chain is disrupted. It has also mooted a proposal to make universities and educational institutions drug free.

Not only in Kerala, but many metro cities have transformed into Narcopolis of mega or mini kind. Most major cities of India like Bangalore, Mangalore, Chennai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, Vishakhapatnam, Pune, Mumbai, New Delhi, Jaipur, and many more, which are also major educational hubs, report heavy drug usage by the student community. Educational institutions, are without doubt, the favourite places where illicit drugs are sold, shared and consumed. Freshers are welcomed into sororities and fraternities famous for partying and binge drinking. All these activities can lead to criminal behaviour, poor social relations, sexual assault and risky social behaviour. The oft repeated reasons for drug use are stress, course-load, curiosity, peer pressure, familial issues, traumatic life events and socio-economic status.

Tackling drug-abuse among students, should be a joint effort of State and Non-State actors, parents, guardians, teachers, and social workers. Schools and religious institutions are excellent forums for information dissemination. The upsurge of drug use among university and school children does not augur well for the country. The nation is also coming to grips with the alarming news that underage boys and girls are being lured or trapped into becoming drug addicts. Students are always the easiest targets, as they live in varying states of social flux. As freshers they are naïve and impressionable and without parental control. Seniors are always concerned about their grades and marks, higher studies, repayment of student loans, and job prospects. To ward off these tensions, many seek refuge in drugs and alcohol. There are also many students, who in order to make some quick money, act as agents of drug peddlers, and devote their time for organizing parties, and luring more students into the drug-trap. It is a standard rule that those newly enrolled into consuming drugs, are not allowed to buy the drugs on their own, until their loyalty is verified. Also, the peddler will supply the drugs only through a known student. This is a ticking time-bomb of university students getting into trading of drugs.

The entire community, State and Nation should jointly strive to prevent our students from falling into the abyss of drug abuse. This writer is of the opinion that the government should declare drug use as a ‘National Disaster’. The advantage is that, disasters often bring out the best in people to rescue affected people. This strategy can be used to tackle the drug-crisis. The theme of the United Nations International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking for the year 2021 is ‘Share facts on drugs, Save Lives’. Let us all unite to save our younger generations from the scourge of drugs.

(The author is Former Director General, National Academy of Customs Indirect Taxes and Narcotics,
& Multi-Disciplinary School of Economic Intelligence India, Fellow, James Martin Centre for Non-Proliferation Studies, USA, Fellow, Centre for International Trade & Security, University of Georgia, USA Public Administration, Maxwell School of Public Administration, Syracuse University, U.S.A.
AOTS Scholar, Japan)

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