Thursday, April 25, 2024

It is still a dream Mr Chief Minister


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By HH Mohrmen

Drugs are becoming a major problem in the state now and the issue does not seem to be fading away any time soon. This is evident from the fact that there are reports of drugs peddlers and suppliers being apprehended almost on a daily basis. A decade or so back, drugs were considered an urban problem, but now drug users are found everywhere. This has compelled the Government to take this problem seriously and come up with a policy and an action mission, but the question is – Has the government done enough to combat this menace?
Drugs Prevalent in Meghalaya
According to sources, drugs that are prevalent in Meghalaya as on 2019 as per data collected by the National Survey on Extent and Pattern of Substance Use in India stands as follows: Alcohol current use is 3.4% dependence 0.9%, Cannabis current 1.68% dependence 0.15%, Opioid current use 6.34 % dependence 0.75 %, Sedatives current use 0.95% dependence 0.09 %, Cocaine current use 0.05 % dependence 0.09 %, Inhalants current use 0.08 % dependence 0.01 %, Amphetemine Type Stimulants (ATS) current use 0.05 % dependence 00 %, fortunately no use of Hallucinogens is found in the state. The other very startling statistic in Meghalaya is the opioid consumption rate. In the last survey done it was found that opioid consumption in the state stands at 6.34 % while the national average is 2.06%. (The source of the data is from Data on the magnitude of substance Use in Meghalaya from the National Survey on Extent and Pattern of substance Use in India, 2019.)
This was the first ever survey and was conducted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment (MoSJE) through the National Drug Dependent Treatment Centre (NDDTC) of the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), New Delhi. The survey was done across 36 states and Union Territories between December 2017 to October 2018. A household sample survey (HHS) was conducted among a representative sample of 19 to 57 year olds. A total of 2.00.111 households were visited across 5,808 Primary Sampling Units and 186 Districts with a total of 4,73,569 individuals interviewed with 4000 households in each state and 12,500 completed interviews of individual in each state. It may be noted that in Meghalaya the sample survey was collected from three districts East Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and West Garo Hills Districts.
Data of NDPS cases in Meghalaya
As per data received from the office of the IGP, CID, Shillong, it shows that there is an increasing trend of drug activity in the state. Numbers of cases registered, persons arrested and drugs recovered is increasing day by day. Data of NDPS cases in Meghalaya from January 1, to October 13, 2022 recorded that the numbers of cases registered is 84, arrested accused male 169, arrested accused female 23, and numbers of accused arrested 192. Data of NDPS seizure in Meghalaya from January 1, to October 13, 2022 is, Heroin 4074.481 gms, Ganja or cannabis 3788.574 gms, Opium 644 gms, Yaba tablets 11364 numbers, others Psychotropic Substances 15,934 numbers, and Codeine based syrup 743 bottles.
Data shows that number of cases registered at different police stations from January 1, to October 13, 2022 has also increased. It was found that in the East Khasi Hills alone a total of 37 cases were registered, West Khasi hills 6 cases, South West Khasi Hills 4, East Jaintia Hills 7 cases, West Jaintia Hills 4 cases, Ri Bhoi 7 cases, West Garo Hills 12 cases, South Garo hills 5 cases, and South West Garo Hills 2 cases. This should be a cause of worry for everyone.
Substance use among Children
The other very startling data shows the higher risk attached to vulnerable sections of the population, particularly the children. The 2013 Assessment of pattern and profile of substance sue among children in India which examines the pattern, profile and correlates of substances use among Indian children found that Meghalaya had the highest child substance users. This is very sad indeed. The first nation-wide study was commissioned by the National Commission for Protection of Child Right (NCPCR) in collaboration with National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) of AIIMS to examine the pattern, profile and correlates of substance use among Indian children. Assessment of pattern and profile of substance use among children in India, found that 27.3%, use Heroin, Tobacco 96.4 %, Cannabis 50.9 % and Inhalants 30.9%.
According to data, the family related factors is, (57%). This means the user is because there is a substance user in a family member. 25% of the users come from a single parent/broken families/living with relative or no parents, 46.6% of the users come from a family where there is fight in the family, which has history of physical/verbal abuse 45.3%, of drugs users stated stress, physical and psychological health, peer related factors as the reason for their indulging in the habit.
Smoking the genesis of it all
To begin with the state not only has a problem with drugs is that it even has a large number of people who use tobacco. Amongst the different tribes of the state smoking in public is an accepted norm, it is considered as normal activity for men. It reminds one of the incident when the writer was just starting his ministry at Puriang in the early part of nineties. On one cold winter day, while sitting around the fireplace with the elders of the church while they shared the traditional hookah made of bamboo from one person to the other and when, the traditional pipe reached the place where I was sitting it was passed without me even smoking it. Mrit Nongspung the eldest of them all, then remarked, “Shish! ngi ne ngi Babu tae sngew kum ba ym ia shi para shynrang hi rae,” which means that since, I didn’t smoke it didn’t feel like it is an all man’s club. It is generally accepted that one has to smoke to be manly.
This is evident from the data about the alarming statistics which is that over 50% of tobacco users in Meghalaya started to smoke before the age of 17, compared to the national average of 23.6%. Not only that we also have a large number of people using tobacco, in the state. Children too start smoking at a very early age.
Smoking in public places including inside public transport is still prevalent and if one tries to talk sense to the smokers, the person will be sidelined and even mocked because it is still an accepted norm in the state. Despite efforts to build on existing initiatives like Tobacco Free Educational Institutions (ToFEI) a major campaign was organized but it is questionable as to how much impact this has made. School children are involved in the campaign and they had lost many precious school hours but have we seen the decline in the number of young people indulging is smoking or smoking in public? As per sources the top five districts in smoking are East Khasi Hills, East Jaintia Hills, West Garo hills, South Garo hills and Ri Bhoi District.
Government’s intervention to support Adolescents and Youth
In order to address the problem and issues faced by children and adolescents of the state the government has envisioned a holistic approach to improving the well-being of young adults through the efforts initiated by Early Childhood Development (ECD). This program specially targeting adolescents initiated by the Government is called Meghalaya Program for Adolescent Well Being, Employment and Resilience (MPOWER). These programs are targeted at enhancing the physical, mental and emotional wellbeing of the youths, instilling in them the values of resilience and risk aversion and to enable them to transition from school to work. Unfortunately till date the program has not reached the masses.
Government’s intervention to Combating Drugs
To combat the drug menace in the state, four years ago the Government came up with the Meghalaya Drug Abuse Prevention Policy, but that was just a policy. Two years later the Government of Meghalaya June 3, 2023, launched the Drug Reduction Elimination, and Action Mission (DREAM)in order to implement the policy.
The youth are the future of the state and the Government needs to take a good care of them. The Government has introduced programs like YESS and has spent a lot in constructing sports infrastructure and organizing games etc. But is that enough? DREAM is built on the Meghalaya Drug Abuse Prevention Policy, 2020, but is this enough? Has the Government done anything other than coming up with a policy and a mission plan? Despite the gravity of the situation, nothing is seen on the ground as yet. The Government has not put its money where its mouth is.
There is a lot of money for organizing festivals and but unfortunately the government has not allocated funds for the implementation of DREAM. Why in the case of Meghalaya, organizing festivals take precedence over implementing important programs like the DREAM project which is envisioned to help combat drugs. The reason is because the Government thrives on the limelight, so programs or projects which do not give the government visibility or publicity it longs for are not being prioritized.


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