Kashmir has a drug problem, a fairly serious one. One we saw coming a mile away yet collectively failed to acknowledge and abate timely.Result? Well established supply lines, a thriving mafia, teens peddling in schools and young boys dropping dead from over doses.
There is a general sense among the civil society of having conscientiously contributed by stigmatizing drug use and not sending their college going teens to certain institutions labelled as drug hubs. The cops are content with their daily drug busts ,feeling totally on top of things where in fact the seizures are minuscule relative to the amounts in circulation. Daily doses of social media posts from Police give an impression that things are under control, the reality however suggests otherwise.
On November the 12th this year the J&K Administration announced that a survey conducted had reported the presence of 6 lakh active users across the Union Territory with other media reports suggesting higher numbers and Kashmir as the epicenter. The drug menace is Kashmir wasn’t an over night occurrence rather one that started decades ago and lurked in the shadows, un alarmingly overlooked by the authorities remaining limited to news paper columns and the odd radio show every now and then.
The three decade long conflict which continues to ravage Kashmir and its people today brought with it a gloom, a strong sense of despondence that touched everyone on a personal level in one way or the other. As militancy spread its roots, the sun started setting on peace and prosperity pushing people to live a compromised quality of life. With sky no longer being the limit and no signs of relief in sight the academically ambitious and high achieving youth of Kashmir saw unemployment, financial insecurity and lack of a better future claustrophobically closing in on them.While some fell prey to mental disorders like anxiety and depression others chose quick bursts of euphoria in the form of narcotics. Poverty is another key variable which keeps the addicts in a constant search for cheap highs thereby proportionally increasing the fatalities and making the end ever more elusive. Whats of the essence is that the aforementioned survey cited the worst affected age group being 17-33, validating the above psychoanalysis.
Clearly the approach that has been in use thus far to curb the spiking substance abuse isn’t working! The approach is reactive not proactive. In the absence of the Anti Narcotics Task Force (ANTF) on the ground , our police force trained to fight insurgency is pitchforked into a trade they aren’t trained and skilled to do. Countless policies and plans are made on de addiction with no infrastructure to support them. There is no accountability of the drugs that are seized. Rampant corruption is the fuel to the fire, of the thousands of drug mules in operation a fraction gets caught and far lesser actually make it to the court and a conviction. The penalties and jail term so nominal and petty one would want to be in this trade.
The administration needs to look at the big picture, failure to ramp up the war against drugs could leave us with irreparable damage. Calculated, well thought through and effective execution of policies is the need of the hour. NGO’s , social activist groups, political parties , their youth wings , schools , colleges and universities need to be engaged and incentivized to carry out anti addiction road shows and amplify the voice against drugs. Foreign drug pipelines have to be plugged, the ANTF needs to massively crack down on the in-house production and judiciary needs to set up dedicated fast track courts that levy tough sentences. This shall send out a clear message. Its imperative that all of the above is done in tandem with youth engagement which further translates to ensuring the youth remain employed and are empowered with easily accessible entrepreneurial schemes. Government funded community recreation centers would do absolute wonders.
The ask may sound big but we can’t put a price tag on the welfare of our society.