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In Kashmir, every 12 minutes, a drug addict walks into OPD, government unable to control drug problem

IndiaIn Kashmir, every 12 minutes, a drug addict walks into OPD, government unable to control drug problem

Since 2018, notably, drug addiction in Kashmir skyrocketed, presently, one million individuals not sparing young girls and boys are battling substance abuse.

Indian Express shares that “every 12 minutes, a drug addict walks into to the OPD.  Young people pour into clinics across districts. A father says he is “relieved” that his son is dead.  “We couldn’t take it anymore,” said the 63-year-old in Baramulla.  However, now their other two sons have also fallen prey to drugs.

A psychiatrist and professor Dr Yasir Rather at IMHANS said,”Until a decade ago, we used to see 10-15 cases of drug addiction per day at our hospital. Now we see 150-200 cases a day. This is alarming.”

One of the main reasons given for this is the rising unemployment and poverty in Kashmir, spurring many people, in desperation, to turn to drugs to escape their problems. Another factor is the easy availability of drugs, which has increased rapidly over the last six years, notably.

Adolescents haven’t been spared from this crisis. The Standing Committee on Social Justice and Empowerment disclosed that in the age group of 10 to 17 years, an estimated 1,68,700 children in Jammu and Kashmir are involved in drug use. These youngsters are engaging with substances ranging from cannabis, opioids, and sedatives to cocaine, amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS), inhalants, and hallucinogens.

How did drugs infiltrate Kashmir is the question?  Drugs such as heroin, cannabis, brown sugar, and ganja have been pouring into Kashmir.  As per the data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the number of drug addicts has surged to 60,000 with a staggering 1700% increase in drug use over the past six years.

A federal minister recently informed the Indian Parliament that nearly a million people in Jammu and Kashmir – around 10% of the region’s population – use drugs of some kind, including cannabis, opioids, or sedatives. While there are no comparable figures from earlier, doctors say there is a surge in the number of patients.

One million individuals within the Union territory are currently battling substance abuse

A recent report from the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in March 2023 disclosed that approximately one million individuals within the Union territory are currently battling substance abuse, with opioids being the prime cause of addiction for over 50% of them.

An inquiry initiated by the Jammu and Kashmir administration in the previous year disclosed that 52,000 individuals in the Kashmir region openly acknowledged their use of heroin. These revelations further illuminated the astonishing detail that the average monthly expenses for a drug user to maintain their habit total around 88,000 rupees ($1,063.54; £860).

Experts from the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences Srinagar (IMHANS) have noted a significant shift in drug usage patterns. Rather than relying on medicinal opioids like Codeine, SP, Tramadol, and Tapentadol, there has been a concerning transition towards more potent and dangerous hardcore drugs, with intravenous heroin being the predominant choice.

At IMHANS, it has been observed that around 70% of drug users test positive for HCV (Hepatitis C Virus). A study conducted by IMHANS in 2023 shed light on the disturbance surge of Hepatitis C among drug abusers in Kashmir, which stands at a formidable 72%. The institute receives an overwhelming influx of 150 drug addiction cases every day and reports a daily usage of over 33,000 syringes for heroin injections.

Remarkably, IMHANS witnesses an average of 150 new drug addiction cases daily, with a notable portion being teenagers. Among the substances abused, a study of 189 outpatients revealed cannabis as the most commonly abused substance, followed by heroin. Heroin users exhibit the highest rate of drug dependence and multiple drug abuse, and doctors are particularly worried about its addictive nature and severe withdrawal symptoms.

Kashmir has just two public drug rehabilitation centers, namely IMHANS and one operated by the police, there are also Addiction Treatment Facility Centres (ATFCs) in every district. These ATFCs function as clinics with a doctor, counselors, and nurses, focusing on treating addiction issues without providing admission facilities.  It may not be enough to tackle an epidemic as large as this.

Questions on Why the Government is Unable to Control the Drug Malady in Kashmir

It is surprising that in the most militarized zone, how is the drug trade surging so easily?

It is not possible to do this without inside support.  How do the drug dealers know the contact sources, and how do they manage to transport the drugs inside Kashmir?    It is worrisome that in Kasmir, the most militarized zone in the world, the drug trade surged so swiftly and easily without much resistance from government authorities in the region. Kashmir is known as the world’s most militarized zone in the world, re-militarized as India deploys more troops. In 2019, India brought in approximately 50,000 military and paramilitary forces to the region, reinforcing the already existing 700,000 stationed troops. This escalation in militarization has been progressively unfolding since 2019. Consequently, Kashmir retains its status as the most heavily militarized area worldwide.

According to officials, the Army maintains a strength of around 1.3 lakh personnel in the entire Jammu and Kashmir of which around 80,000 are deployed on the border. About 40,000-45,000 personnel from the Rashtriya Rifles have the mantle of conducting counter-terror operations in Kashmir’s hinterland.

With such a strong presence of the Army not only in the Valley but heavily concentrated in the borders, how are drugs allowed to enter so easily with no resistance from Indian governmental authorities there?

The drug problem escalated in 2018, right under the nose of the BJP government’s watch.  Why?  These are the questions lurking in people’s minds.

How are Drugs Smuggled So Easily Across the Border?

Several villages within Karnah Tehsil lie in close proximity to the Line of Control (LOC), and certain regions extend beyond the fence erected by the Indian army to deter infiltration. “Despite this, drug dealers manage to establish cross-border contacts and successfully smuggle narcotics into Kashmir. However, our intelligence network is highly effective in thwarting these attempts,” the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) remarked.

Jammu and Kashmir’s Police Chief, Dilbagh Singh, revealed that Pakistani agencies were actively attempting to infiltrate large quantities of narcotics into the union territory. Singh highlighted their use of smugglers, intermediaries, and even drones to facilitate the transport of these illicit substances.

While the government blames “narco-terrorism” to describe the phenomenon where terrorist activities in Kashmir are being financed through the narcotics trade, nothing is done to stop the inflow of drugs through both land routes, spanning across the LoC and the International Border in Jammu and Punjab, as well as through the utilization of drones.

The Indian government could deploy a strong presence with powerful networking and systems to stop drug infiltration, but nothing effective has been employed to date.

Essentially, a forthcoming generation of Kashmiri youth is at risk of being deeply affected by drugs, potentially hindering their decision-making abilities and mental prowess in their endeavors.

Significantly, the issue of drug proliferation began intensifying during the tenure of the BJP under Narendra Modi, particularly from 2018 onward. When the government consistently points fingers at Pakistan for the influx of drugs into Kashmir but takes no substantial action to curb it, they are essentially admitting their own incapacity, ineffectiveness, and lack of will to bring about meaningful change.

If the Jammu and Kashmir police decide the stop the drug trade, they can crack the drug mafia in twenty-four hours.  They can gather information from various sources, such as informants, undercover agents, surveillance, electronic intercepts, and publicly available data. They have access to collecting details about the individuals involved, their activities, communication methods, supply chains, and distribution networks, and even can conduct string operations.

But Jammu and Kashmir’s police are unable to nab it.  Perhaps they have instructions from higher-up figures to leave it on the shelves.  It all boils down to a question of an inside job with high echelons involved.  Thus, the drug trade blossoms under the watch of the government.

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