The cat is finally out of the bag. Nearly six lakh people are affected by drug-related issues in Jammu and Kashmir. The number accounts for approximately 4.6% population of the Union territory. Shockingly 90 percent of users are in the age group of 17-33.
During the maiden meeting of the state-level committee of the narco coordination center held under the chairmanship of Chief Secretary, Dr. Arun Kumar it was informed that as per a consumption survey, Jammu and Kashmir has 6 lakh people affected by drug-related issues.
It was informed that Jammu and Kashmir is situated in close vicinity to the golden crescent which produces 80 percent of the world’s opium and is considered as the prime source of the illicit drug trade. The meeting outlined broad project contours for tackling the drug menace in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Chief Secretary underscored the need of compiling data on the production of poppy and cannabis in Jammu and Kashmir as well as cross-border transportation to assess the presence of these drugs and their synthetic derivatives in J&K.
For curbing the illicit cultivation of poppy, Dr. Mehta directed the Anti-Narcotics Task Force (ANTF) in convergence with the Excise and Agriculture departments; to map the expected cultivation areas and take remedial actions for the destruction of the illegal crop, both on private and government lands. The ANTF was further asked to formulate an action plan to prevent such cultivation in the next season.
Data released by the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS), Kashmir, reveal that there have been 3538 admissions since the pandemic broke out last year. Interestingly, 12 percent of OPD attendees were first-time users who took to drugs during the lockdown period. Also, 24 percent of the drug abusers had relapsed during the lockdown.
Data available with police reveal that 22 kilograms of heroin worth around Rs. 100 crore has been seized in the first six months of this year. As many as 306 Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) cases have been registered and 445 drug peddlers have been arrested. Last year, 1132 drug-related cases were registered and 1672 involved persons were arrested. Of these, 30 drug peddlers were booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA).
The only silver lining is that the area under poppy cultivation in Kashmir has declined by over 77 percent this year. Thanks to extensive anti-narcotics drive and awareness campaigns by religious leaders and Panchayat Raj Institutions (PRIs), poppy cultivation has been contained to a large extent.
Figures released by the J&K Excise Department reveal that poppy crop spread over more than 631 kanals of land has been destroyed in the Kashmir valley till June 4. Last year, law enforcement agencies had destroyed poppy crops spread over 2769 kanals of land till June 10.
However, there is no let-up in drug abuse. During the lockdown, people witnessed financial, emotional, and other stresses where they were not able to cope. So in some cases either as escapism or just as a negative coping mechanism people started taking drugs. A 2015 study by Medicine Sans Frontiers (MSF) revealed that 45 % of people of Kashmir suffer from distress and it has been around six years since then that too filled with trauma.
Drug abuse is posing the biggest threat to youth in Jammu and Kashmir. Not only boys, but even girls are falling into the vortex of drugs.
According to doctors, three percent of total drug abusers comprise women in Kashmir. Of whom 2% are iatrogenic and the rest 1% are consuming drugs due to psychological problems, relationship failures, and family conflicts.
Official figures point out a steady increase in drug addiction cases across Kashmir in the last few years.
Figures of SMHS hospital’s Drug De-addiction Centre reveal that 489 patients were treated in the Outpatients Department (OPD) in 2016-2017. The figures rose to 3622 in 2017-18 and 5113 in 2018-19. From April to June 2019, 1095 patients were treated in the OPD of SMHS hospital’s Drug De-addiction Centre.
Data shows that the number of patients admitted during 2015-2016 was 116. The number increased to 203 in 2015 -2016. Around 207 were admitted in 2016- 2017 followed by 374 in 2017-2018. The number increased to 624 in 2018-2019.
Police figures reveal that 21871 patients have been treated in Drug De-Addiction and Rehabilitation Center, Srinagar, from February 2008 to May 2019. Of whom 2315 were admitted to the indoor patients’ department.
Data released by Jammu and Kashmir police reveal that 1132 drug-related cases were registered in 2020. Around 1672 persons involved in drug smuggling and peddling were arrested. Around 35 drug peddlers were booked under Public Safety Act (PSA).
Likewise, 152.18 kgs of heroin were seized in 2020. Besides, 563.61 kgs of charas/ganja and 22230.48 kgs of opium/poppy/cannabis derivatives were seized during the year. Around 339603 capsules, 57925 intoxicating bottles, and 265 intoxicative Injections were also seized during the anti-narcotics drive this year.
Doctors have cautioned that if the issue is not addressed, it can push Kashmir into the abyss of drugs. Community leaders, imams, parents, and social influencers have a responsibility to come forward and fight this menace with all might. Young boys are seen in parks, deserted street corners, and even public washrooms administering drugs.
Community leaders should cooperate with police to identify the drug peddlers so that they are brought to justice. Having said so, we need to adopt a humane approach to help youth overcome drug abuse. Shaming or disparaging addicts will not help. We need to give them confidence and wean them away from drugs with love, empathy, and care.