Devaswom Minister Kadannappally Ramachandran has stressed the need to fortify young minds against drug abuse and addiction to liquor, the two evils threatening family relations and the social fabric of the State.

Speaking after inaugurating the Narcotics-free Schools Scheme launched by the district panchayat in association with the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre (ADIC)- India and the Department of Information and Public Relations here on Wednesday, he said substance abuse and alcoholism were responsible for the high rate of suicides, homicides, mental health problems, road accidents and domestic violence.

“Encouraging young minds to give up alcohol and drugs is more effective than a ban.”

District panchayat president Anavoor Nagappan, who presided over the function, said a large number of students in city schools, including girls, were addicted to chewing tobacco and other forms of addictive substances freely available in the market.

District panchayat vice-president B.P. Murali; chairman of the health standing committee K.Rajan Babu; ADIC- India director Johnson J.Edayaranmula; Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister Sheela Thomas; secretary, General Education, James Varghese; and director, I&PRD, M.Nandakumar were present. The Narcotics Free School campaign involves a four-month programme covering 145 high schools and higher secondary schools in the district to sensitise children to the evils of drugs, liquor and tobacco.

The campaign will be spearheaded by teachers, parents and neighbourhood groups.

The scheme envisages constitution of vigilance committees comprising school authorities, parent-teacher associations and people's representatives with the support of officials from various departments to prevent the sale and consumption of liquor, drugs and tobacco-based products within a 400-metre radius of educational institutions.