Given 45 days for coming up with strategy in absence of policy
In the absence of a policy on combating drug abuse, the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has set up a task force to draw up a strategy for eliminating the problem in the country. The Ministry is already getting a survey conducted in Maharashtra, Punjab and Manipur, where drug abuse is perceived to have reached endemic proportions.
The task force, comprising medical professionals and representatives of the Health Ministry, the Narcotics Control Bureau, the Revenue Department and the Ministry of Women and Child Welfare, has been given 45 days for coming up with a strategy.
“The problem of drug abuse has wide ramifications. It is more acute than even fatal diseases like AIDS, because it not only affects the person’s health but also propels crime. The task force will help in drafting an action plan to implement a policy on fighting drug abuse,” said a senior Ministry official.
The Ministry is the nodal agency for substance abuse prevention. But with little information on the scale of the problem, its growth pattern and social and economic impacts, the Ministry has been unable to come up with a working plan to combat the problem.
This lack of information and the nonexistence of a policy have also had an adverse impact on the rehabilitation of substance abusers.
Task force member Rajesh Kumar said the team will cull out relevant data that will help restructure drug abuse prevention programmes in the country.
“We will work on important aspects such as early prevention, given 40 per cent of the population is under 40, we need to focus on this target group and reach out to schools, colleges and youth in general. A sizeable number of youngsters get initiated into substance abuse by sniffing glue or smoking marijuana. The next step is early intervention, wherein we target the abusers and encourage them to opt for treatment. Roping in abusers for treatment so that they do not recruit more people and prevent the spread of substance abuse will also be a focus area,” said Dr. Kumar, who is part of non-government organisation Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses.
Developing cadres for treatment, encouraging public-private partnership for enhancing rehabilitation facilities and adopting global best practices are also on the agenda of the task force.