It is not easy to fight the menace of drugs. It is painful for families if their young ones turn into addicts; equally challenging for doctors to treat them and a highly responsible duty for the police to nab culprits involved in illicit drug trade. The Jodhpur police have gone a step ahead, deciding to play the role of a saathi and help rehabilitate drug addicts.

While playing the friendly Samaritan role, the police are working on a two-fold strategy. They have intensified crackdown on drug sellers and at the same time are facilitating a mechanism to help those who want to say ‘no’ to drugs. Western Rajasthan is known for ceremonial opium offerings but the present concern of the Jodhpur police is the increasing number of smack addicts.

“Smack is a new entrant in the region but fast growing,” said Rahul Prakash, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Rural) who is the brain behind this initiative. The most alarming factor in smack addiction is that one instantly develops craving. “While it may take time for people to become addicted to liquor or opium, smack has a really quick effect,” Mr. Prakash said.  

It is an expensive addiction, too, which often forces youngsters to first borrow money from friends and family. When borrowing doesn’t succeed, they often end up committing thefts. “We have stepped up action against drug peddlers to break the demand and supply chain. We have seized 3.5 kg smack from January to April this year whereas last year it was just 1.5 grams in four months.  We have intensified crackdown on all other drugs as well, including opium and poppy,” the senior official said.

He added: “Simultaneously we have involved some social organisations to generate awareness against drug addiction and help in rehabilitation work.” The Saathi initiative aims to bring back smack addicts, mainly youths, to the mainstream of life and rehabilitate them through proper follow-up.

It is basically a government initiative. “You may call it a PPT model,” Dr. Gaurav, the district programme officer at the government hospital in Jodhpur, said. The help of civil society is being taken to mobilise and create general awareness among people. Special awareness camps are being organised in schools and colleges since youth are the most vulnerable. This is part of the preventive strategy.

Drug addiction is not only a menace but a social stigma also; so addicts are provided counselling to encourage them to come forward, Dr. Gaurav said.

“The police are there to offer support and help as a friend, not as a guide or instructor. We want to help the youths in a friendly manner,” said Mr. Prakash. Other departments and organisations have also evinced interest, particularly the Marwar Muslim Society and Gramin Vikas Vigyan Samiti are lending active support.

The de-addiction centre at the Mathura Das Mathur (MDM) government hospital, which lay almost dysfunctional for some years but now has been revved up to offer rehab facilities to affected youths.

“The weakest link in any initiative is lack of follow-up,” according to Mr. Prakash; so concerned police stations have been asked to maintain Saathi registers with a database of drug addicts. When a patient is discharged from the hospital, the concerned policemen and voluntary organisations are informed so that the beat constable and social workers can make sure that the patient doesn’t fall prey to drug addiction again. The social organisations also keep in touch with the families to ensure there is no recurrence. The progress report is sent to the Superintendent of Police’s office for periodic follow-up. Of the seven drug addicts admitted at the MDM hospital, four have reportedly recovered and gone home.

Special posters have also been designed to make the youths aware of the menace since 50 per cent of them admit to taking drugs following peer pressure. An awareness campaign planned for educational institutions is hoped to give further boost to the Saathi initiative.