Srinagar, Nov 14: Heaven on earth has become a haven for drug addicts.
Official figures reveal that nearly six lakh people are affected by drug-related issues which are 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 on Friday 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.
Observing that drug menace in terms of usage and addiction has significantly gone up in Jammu and Kashmir during recent years, the Chief Secretary directed the concerned to enhance the conviction rate in narco-related cases while simultaneously focusing on proper counseling and rehabilitation of drug-affected youth.
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 campaign 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.