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Anantnag shows how community involvement is key to fight drug abuse

Recently Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Thawar Chand Gehlot, appreciated the efforts of the district administration of Anantnag for taking effective steps to curb the menace of drug abuse.

Let us learn from the Deputy Commissioner of Anantnag, Dr Piyush Singla IAS how the fight against drugs involves societal engagement. Dr. Singla being the Deputy Commissioner is also the Chairman of the District Level Nasha Mukt Campaign Committee of Anantnag.

A drug free society can be achieved through collective participation of all. Dr. Singla said, “Fighting drug abuse cannot be done by a single stakeholder. Curbing any societal evil calls for multi-sectoral intervention. Anantnag being a sensitive district located in south-Kashmir has to go through many challenges. However community involvement was the key as it created pressure from within the community to curb such societal evils and thereby reduced the need of the law enforcement agencies to get involved.” 

The strategy adapted

The fight against drug abuse involves four checks. Firstly, there is the individual check. The individual is motivated not to take drugs or get involved in drug peddling keeping in view the larger interest. At the second step comes the check from the family. Family watch is important and it can try to prevent the individual from taking drugs by raising an alarm. At the third step comes the check from the society who tries to pressurize the individual to leave drugs. It is only when these three initial steps fail to check the menace or do not intervene adequately or are not effective, then law enforcement agencies come into the picture.

“I believe, for every social evil or every problem which has a larger ramification, these four checks should be adapted. So we thought we should engage at all these levels,” the Deputy Commissioner said.

At the individual level counseling sessions and one-to-one interactions are done. At the family level the district administration tries to involve the women. “I personally feel this is very important because mothers and wives can play a decisive role in curtailing this menace and we should utilize their role,” Dr. Singla said. At the society level many seminars and symposiums are routinely held. At the final step the procedures are set as per law.

Understanding the challenges

Creating sensitization among people is the most challenging aspect. In Kashmir the issues are not black-and-white and there are many aspects involved in it. “Considering the sensibilities we try to adopt our response as per the areas,” the DC informed. 

There are certain pockets in the district which used to cultivate drugs. At first these pockets are identified and then the district administration tries to address them. There are regular joint visits of the excise department, the police and the magistrates. “We try to find a way to create an alternative source of livelihood for the cultivators so that they can stop cultivation,” Dr. Singla said.  

“It is not a drug free society yet. We have tried to intervene where it matters. Both the demand and supply of drugs need to be curbed,” Dr. Singla said. People involved in drug trade first try to create peddlers who eventually turn into consumers; in order to check that the supply chain needs to be thoroughly probed. 

The angle of narco-terrorism is a major challenge in the way of curtailing the supply of drugs. “The threshold may be reached very easily and the person you have tried to save may be shifting to the other side because of the easy supply. This needs to be addressed more aggressively,” the DC informed. The law enforcement agencies are trying their best to check this problem.

Support from the Central government

The central government has launched the Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyan through the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to curb the demand of drugs through the involvement of youths. To achieve this, it handholds districts by providing guidance, conducting awareness activities, providing special funding with regard to IEC (Information Education and Communication), regular seminars and meeting with the stakeholders. 

Involvement of youths

According to Dr Singla, good role models create good human resources and youths need to be given role models so that they can correlate with them and try to be one of them. “Regular exchange programs, talent hunts, youth clubs and sports activities are being conducted at the district level to involve them in governance activities which might help in fighting drug abuse. 

Dr. Singla’s message for today’s youth is – “You are the future of the country and have a major role as a nation builder. Given the present availability of information at the click of a button you all can be big assets for society. Do not fall into the trap of this false illusion of euphoria received from taking drugs. Everyone faces issues while growing up. However, the answer to them is not hidden in drugs but in your personal strength. If you face any personal issues, share them with your counselor or your family. Everyone can have a beautiful life; you just need to build it by following your dreams with determination.” 

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