Behind drug menace in five North Western states — supply at doorstep, quick money: Study

Navjeevan Gopal
Part of the 532-kg heroin haul from Attari. The study found that cross border supply of drugs – mainly originating from golden crescent comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran . It noted that Punjab is the transit route of the drug supply from this golden crescent. (Express archive)

Easy availability of drugs including supply at the doorstep, quick and huge earnings, unemployment and peer pressure some of the factors behind the prevailing drug menace in several states, including Punjab, a study has found. It also found that addicts spend up to Rs 2,000 a day on buying and consuming narcotics.

The study sponsored by the Indian Council for Social Science Research (ICSSR) also found that factors responsible for drug addiction and abuse included cross border supply of drugs – mainly originating from golden crescent comprising Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran . It noted that Punjab is the transit route of the drug supply from this golden crescent.

The study – Dynamics of Drug Addiction and Abuse in North West India: Social, Economic and Political Implications – was conducted by Professor Ranjit Singh Ghuman, Dr Gurinder Kaur and Dr Jatinder Singh of the Chandigarh-based Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (CRRID). It covered 16 districts of five states – Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Jammu and Kashmir. The sample size comprised 1,140 addicts and 1,566 households. The addicts included 570 in-patients for treatment of drug abuse, 380 follow up addicts visiting various centres for the alternate medicine, and 190 hidden addicts.

The team considered only those drugs such as heroin, opium and chitta , which have been banned under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act. The study commenced in February 2017 and its 371-page report was submitted to the ICSSR in July this year.

Giving details of the study, Professor Ghuman said addicts were spending Rs 200 to Rs 2,000 a day on drug consumption, while the cost of their treatment variewd from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh.

He said that about 58 per cent of the respondents were from Punjab alone. Since Punjab has been projected as an epicentre of drug addiction for the last more than 10 years, it remained the main focus of the study. The respondents were picked from eight districts of state .

Ghuman said that the study found that distribution of intoxicants by the political parties and the candidates during elections of the three tiers of democracy and patronage by the political leaders and police officials were also responsible for drug addiction and abuse.

The drug menace was one of the major political issues in the 2017 assembly elections in Punjab and after coming to power in Punjab, the Congress-led government even set up a special task force to curb the drug menace.

The study pointed out that while 65 per cent addicts started consuming drugs at the age between 15 to 20 years, 18 per cent who first got hooked to drugs were in the age bracket of 21 to 25 years. Ten per cent, as per the study, started consuming drugs when they were less than 14 years of age.

It said that about 72 per cent of the addicts were in the age group of 15 to 35 years and four per cent in the age up to 17 years.

Also, 27 per cent drug addicts were educated up to class 8, and 50 per cent were matriculates or cleared 10+2. The study pointed out that 54 per cent addicts were from rural areas and remaining 46 per cent from urban area.

The study found that 83.5 per cent of the in-patient drug addicts reported consumption of intoxicants by their father. The proportion of fathers consuming intoxicants was highest in Himachal Pradesh (96 per cent), followed by Punjab (83 per cent), Rajasthan (81.8 per cent), Jammu (78.3 per cent) and Haryana (76.7 per cent)

It noted that peddlers were the main source of supply of drugs and some consumers were also peddlers. It said that main source (of drug) was not revealed by them, may be they do not know.

The study found that heroin, afeem (opium), bhukki (poppy husk), bhang and pharmaceutical drugs like tramadol and buprenorphine were the most commonly used drugs .

The study observed that the problem of drug addiction led to wastage of youthful and productive years of life, was a disadvantage to Punjab economy, society and polity, increased expenses on law and order, increased expenses on health delivery system and services and thousands of drugs-driven deaths in the age group of 18 to 30 years.It also pointed out that there was out migration of youth at younger age because of drug menace, leading to depletion of human resources.

Among the major recommendations of the study, it emphasized upon the need of preventive, punitive and curative measures to tackle the menace. Drug menace is the manifestation of deep-rooted distortions in the socio-cultural, economic and political system. Being systemic and multi-dimensional, its solution shall have to be systemic and multi-pronged, the study report said.

There is an urgent need to understand the complexity of the problem having far-reaching social, economic and political implications. There is a need to address all these factors responsible for drug menace in the region as punitive measures alone cannot uproot this menace, it added.

It also suggested generating gainful employment for the unemployed youth.

It also suggested promoting and strengthening in big way the Punjab government s anti-drug programmes like BUDDY, OOAT and DAPO, and replicating these in other states. The third party evaluation of such programmes must be conducted to know the outcome of these programs, said one of the recommendations.