Making a fervent appeal to form a protective shield against the scourge of substance abuse, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan announced a slew of measures to counter the menace as he formally launched the ‘No to Drugs’, an anti-narcotics campaign on Thursday.
In addition to mobilising vigilance committees in local bodies, the government will encourage the wider use of the Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (PITNDPS) Act that empowers senior bureaucrats to remand habitual offenders for up to two years without trial.
A databank of drug offenders will also be created on the lines of the KAAPA [Kerala Anti-social Activities (Prevention) Act] registers that are maintained in police stations with the possibility of preventive detention explored.
In his recorded message that was streamed in educational institutions across the State, Mr. Vijayan raised caution on the increasing prevalence of drug use among youngsters, especially students, who fall prey to drug cartels. Enforcement agencies including the police and the excise departments have been organising various awareness programmes through programmes, including Yodhav and Vimukti.
Such initiatives, he opined, must go hand-in-hand with diligent parenting to attain their common goal of protecting youngsters. “Children should be constantly monitored for abnormal behaviour. Parents should remain vigilant towards demands for money without justifiable reasons, uncontrollable aggression, proximity with strangers and suspicious transactions,” he said.
While a State-level committee chaired by the Chief Minister has been formed to oversee the progress of the multi-pronged anti-narcotics drive, similar panels will be constituted in districts, local bodies and schools.
As many as 19,391 ward committees that comprise socio-cultural activists, Kudumbasree members, anganwadi and ASHA workers have been formed in the State.
Mr. Vijayan said strict instructions have been issued to invoke provisions of the PITNDPS Act. While orders can be issued by officers in the rank of Secretary, police and excise officials have been ordered to submit recommendations to apprehend history-sheeters under the law.
Change of action
He also mooted changes in the manner drug offenders are booked in narcotics cases. While the previous convictions of accused persons are not generally cited in chargesheets that are filed in courts, these will be included in the case of those who are charged for repeat offences under Section 31 and Section 31A of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act to ensure harsher punishments.
Commercial establishments will be required to display boards that state no intoxicants are sold on their premises. The contact details of police and excise officers in the respective jurisdictions must also be specified. Moreover, control rooms will be launched in each excise office to gather data on consumption and supply of drugs. The details of the informants will remain confidential, Mr. Vijayan assured.
The initial phase of the campaign will conclude on November 1 with various programmes, including the formation of human chains in educational institutions. A symbolic burning of intoxicants and public awareness meetings have also been planned.
General Education Minister V. Sivankutty and Higher Education Minister R. Bindu presided over the State-level programmes organised by the respective departments at the SMV School in the capital city and at the Sree Kerala Varma College in Thrissur.