A bright start has been made to Vimukti, the district administration's mission to make Alappuzha a tobacco and drugs-free district, with the first year itself of the programme seeing full recovery of 98 school students, out of 212 who were given counselling after around 500 were found to be using various harmful substances from 66 schools.

District Collector P. Venugopal, who is spearheading the campaign, said Vimukti, which will celebrate its first anniversary on May 31 here, had identified another 136 boys and one girl, all who were prone to such substance abuse, through adolescent health camps held through anganwadis this summer vacation. They would be given counselling and follow-ups in due course.

The campaign, implemented through panchayats, municipalities and schools, teachers, student counsellors and school health officials, also includes activities for banning and seizing tobacco products apart from equipping primary health centres as counselling and de-addiction centres.

The 212 students who were given counselling included three girls and 64 per cent of these were below 15 years of age. They were found to be addicts to pan (82 per cent of them), alcohol (32 per cent), smoking (16 per cent), drugs (10 per cent) and tobacco chewing (14 per cent).

While 98 recovered, 70 were helped to reduce the habit while the 44 who were still continuing the habit are being given counselling and other follow-ups.

Apart from this intervention, the campaign also came up with some note-worthy findings through a house-to-house survey it had conducted among 1,02,603 families in the district, comprising 3,24,618 individuals. Out of 19,860 who responded to queries on drugs, 166 admitted usage.

Positive results

Out of these, 10 were females. For queries on alcohol, for which 42,813 responded, 53.6 per cent admitted usage. As many as 1,157 out of 9533 females who responded also admitted to consumption of alcohol. For queries on smoking, 45,711 persons responded, out of which 47 per cent said yes to whether they smoked or not while 1,062 of these were women.

Mr. Venugopal, who said the campaign so far, carried out without a single rupee of investment from the government, had shown that interventions and positive results too were possible. Enquiries had revealed that there were 1,300 new cancer cases reported every year at the Alappuzha Medical College Hospital, out of which 70 per cent were tobacco abuse-generated oral and lung cancer cases. The survey, he said, also showed that cancer cases among the youth were on the rise. At the same time, there was a wide gap in the school-level survey and the field survey, which revealed that parents were not aware of the dangerous habits of their children. The administration, which was aiming to make Vimukti's website (www.vimukti.gov.in) an interactive portal with medical experts to give guidance to the needy, would also extend the campaign to all schools in the district, Mr. Venugopal said.